PM: ‘Clear red lines’ issued to Iran might reduce the need for military action

Netanyahu’s comments prompt speculation of a deal taking shape with the US: Obama issues a deadline to Tehran; Israel agrees not to attack nuclear sites

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, in July (photo credit: Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL/FLASH90)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, in July (photo credit: Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL/FLASH90)

Greater international resolve to stop Iran’s nuclear program and clear expression of a “red line” that Iran cannot cross without incurring a military response will reduce the likelihood of Israel being forced to act militarily, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated Monday.

His comments prompted speculation that the US and Israel are working behind the scenes on an understanding, whereby President Barack Obama would issue some kind of public deadline to Iran, in exchange for an Israeli commitment not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before November’s presidential elections.

Speaking to an American delegation from the Heroes to Heroes Foundation, Netanyahu said that the biggest threat Israel faces is “Iran’s plans to develop nuclear weapons capability,” but Tehran “doesn’t see a clear red line from the international community” to cease its drive to the bomb.

“This is a brutal regime that is racing ahead with its nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. “It doesn’t see the necessary resolve and determination from the international community,” the prime minister said. “The greater the resolve and the clearer the red line, the less likely we’ll have conflict.”

Israeli leaders are reportedly considering taking unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear program, a move which the US and much of the international community opposes. Washington has sued for time, saying there is still a window for sanctions and diplomacy to work.

On Monday, however, the New York Times reported that the White House was considering outlining clearer red lines, beyond which it would authorize military action against Iran, in order to calm Israeli fears.

“Maybe that’s the deal” being arranged between Washington and Jerusalem, said Udi Segal, a diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Channel 2 news — referring to a possible public deadline issued by Obama to Iran, in return for a guarantee from Netanyahu not to attack.

The US talk of a military option to date “is meaningless,” Channel 2 News military correspondent Roni Daniel added, because Iran did not take the threat seriously. Any “red line” set by the US would have to truly represent a “determination” to strike — and would have to be understood as such by Tehran — for it to be effective, he said.

Israel claims that Iran’s nuclear program, which Jerusalem says is military in nature, represents an existential threat, and has called on the world to take stiff action against the Islamic Republic. Tehran claims its program is for peaceful purposes.

Also on Monday, President Shimon Peres warned that Israel would be able to repel any threat “near or far,” a seeming reference to Iran and closer regional threats, such as Syria and Hezbollah.

Speaking at the Israel Security Prize ceremony, Peres called on the country’s enemies to “abandon the way of war and terrorism” in order for the Middle East to be released from its poverty and hardship by peace.

“We do not threaten anyone nor are we scared of the threats against us,” Peres said. “We have known serious threats in the past and we have emerged victorious. I would advise our enemies not to underestimate our abilities both overt and other; not in the past, not in the present and not in the future.”

Peres voiced opposition to a unilateral Israeli offensive against Iran last month, a move which drew criticism for overstepping the bounds of the normally apolitical presidential office.

The president lined his grave-toned speech with a characteristic glimmer of hope. “I believe that one day the Middle East will overcome self-destruction and achieve prosperity,” he said.


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