Despite Obama refusal, Netanyahu adamant Iran ‘red line’ is vital, says Jerusalem official

President, in their phone-call Tuesday, reportedly rejected PM’s request for specifics on what would trigger US action

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in New York, September 21, 2011 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in New York, September 21, 2011 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Israel’s prime minister believes setting a “red line” for Iran is the only way to convince it to halt its nuclear weapons drive, even if US President Barack Obama thinks otherwise.

A senior official in Jerusalem told Yedioth Ahronoth Friday that Benjamin Netanyahu is adamant about the issue, believing that “as long as Iran isn’t faced with a clear deadline, it will continue to develop nuclear weapons undisturbed.”

The source made the statement following the publication of a New York Times report, earlier Friday, detailing some of the content of an hour-long phone conversation between the two leaders on Tuesday.

According to the report, Obama rejected Netanyahu’s request for the US to specify red lines which, if crossed by Iran, would trigger US military action.

“Mr. Obama deflected Mr. Netanyahu’s proposal to make the size of Iran’s stockpile of close-to-bomb-grade uranium the threshold for a military strike by the United States against its nuclear facilities,” the report said, quoting a senior administration official.

Instead, the president “repeated the assurances he gave to Mr. Netanyahu in March that the United States would not allow Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon. But the president was unwilling to agree on any specific action by Iran — like reaching a defined threshold on nuclear material, or failing to adhere to a deadline on negotiations — that would lead to American military action.”

The official said, “We need some ability for the president to have decision-making room… We have a red line, which is a nuclear weapon. We’re committed to that red line.”

The phone conversation followed an unprecedentedly bitter attack on the US administration by Netanyahu, who said Tuesday that countries that refused to set deadlines for Iran to give up its nuclear program have no “moral” justification for telling Israel to refrain from taking preemptive military action against the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

“The world tells Israel to wait, because there is still time. And I ask: Wait for what? Until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Despite the lengthy phone call the night before with Obama, on Wednesday Netanyahu said that he would protect Israel’s interests even if they ran up against those of close allies.

“It is my duty to uphold the vital interests of the State of Israel, to ensure its security and its future,” Netanyahu said. “I uphold these interests, not that it’s easy, because leadership is tested in upholding them even if there are disagreements with friends, even the best of friends.”

The disagreements between the two leaders and some of their officials over how to thwart Iran are overshadowing Netanyahu’s trip to the US to address the UN General Assembly. Surprisingly, Obama will not be meeting with Netanyahu, with the White House claiming his schedule does not permit it. The White House also claimed earlier this week that no meeting had been requested by Israel, an assertion flatly rejected by Netanyahu’s office.

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