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Invoking Begin and Osirak, PM hints at Iran strike even if US objects

Obama says time running out for diplomatic solution; Netanyahu, in Knesset, vows to uproot Hamas from Gaza

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset on Wednesday, with Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin in the background. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset on Wednesday, with Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin in the background. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night gave one of his broadest indications to date of a readiness to strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, even without US support, and vowed to uproot the Hamas regime from Gaza.

Speaking in the Knesset, Netanyahu noted that Israel had “never placed its fate in the hands of others — not even the best of friends,” and said it would not do so now.

He recalled that then-prime minister Menachem Begin approved Israel’s 1981 strike at Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak even though Begin knew the attack would be criticized worldwide, including by the US. And such criticism was indeed forthcoming, he said. But Begin had been vindicated, and Israel’s ties with the US had only flourished since then, said Netanyahu.

The speech was interpreted by commentators as a further indication of Netanyahu’s determination to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive by military force if sanctions and other diplomacy fail, and if the US does not take action. Amnon Abramovich, an analyst for Israel’s Channel 2 news, said for Netanyahu, it appeared the question of a military strike on Iran was a matter of when, rather than whether.

President Barack Obama was widely reported to have urged Netanyahu to delay any resort to military action for at least the rest of 2012 when they met at the White House last week.

Obama noted, however, during meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, that the window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis was closing.

Tzipi Livni speaks in the Knesset on Wednesday. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Tzipi Livni speaks in the Knesset on Wednesday. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In his strident Knesset speech, Netanyahu also blamed the recent cross-border hostilities between Israel and Gaza on Iran, calling the Gaza Strip an “Iranian terror base.”

Israel, the prime minister said, “will not tolerate an Iranian terror base in Gaza. Sooner or later,” he said, “it will be uprooted.”

He added: “What happens in Gaza is Iran. You have to internalize that. Where are the missiles coming from? Iran. Where does the money come from? Iran. Who is training the terrorists? Iran. The infrastructure? Iran. And who gives often the orders? Iran,” the prime minister said.

He said the Kadima opposition “brought Iran to Gaza.” It was Kadima founder Ariel Sharon who spearheaded Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Tzipi Livni, the current Kadima leader, retorted that Netanyahu was “sowing panic among the people of Israel.”

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