Now the rhetoric on Iran must be translated ‘into practice,’ Netanyahu says

Day after his UN cartoon bomb speech, PM claims his red-line message is ‘reverberating around the world’

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in September 2012. (PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in September 2012. (PMO)

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday reinforced his call to stop Iran’s race toward nuclear weapons, saying that the nearly universal consensus on the Iranian question needs to be put “into practice.”

It is important to “translate the agreement and principle of stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons to practice,” Netanyahu said at a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “In practice, that means setting red lines on their enrichment process. It’s their only discernible and vulnerable part of their nuclear program.”

“I think that if such red lines are set, I believe that Iran will back off,” he added.

A spokesman for the prime minister told reporters: “The Iranian leadership needs to understand in clear and certain terms that there are actions by them that will cause a reaction by the international community that will not be in their interest.”

Netanyahu said his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday “reverberates now around the world” and is being widely discussed.

At his much-covered speech, Netanyahu set a red line for Iran, and underlined the demand by literally drawing it onto a cartoon bomb. He asserted that the regime, if unhindered, will move to the final stage of uranium enrichment needed for a nuclear weapon “by next spring, at most by next summer.”

On Thursday afternoon, after his speech, Netanyahu met with UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

“The meeting with Clinton was a pure one-on-one meeting,” an Israeli official said, adding that no advisers were present; no direct quotes from the meeting were released.

“They had an in-depth discussion on Iran, and reaffirmed that the United States and Israel share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,’ a senior US State Department official told reporters about the meeting with Clinton. “They agreed that we will continue our close consultation and cooperation toward achieving that goal.”

With Ban Ki-moon, Netanyahu discussed several issues, including Iran, Syria, and the prospects of peace with the Palestinians, an official said.

Originally, Netanyahu was also scheduled to meet with European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton, but the meeting was cancelled a few days ago, reportedly because of scheduling difficulties.

On Friday morning, Netanyahu’s meeting with Harper was also off-limits to reporters, with only a photo-op after the meeting.

High-ranking diplomats and community leaders did attend, including Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, and his deputy Haim Waxman; one of Prosor’s predecessors, Dan Gillerman; former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton; and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations head Malcolm Hoenlein.

After his meeting with Harper, the prime minister gave interviews to Israeli television stations, which will be aired on Saturday night.

Later on Friday, the prime minister was scheduled to speak by phone with US President Barack Obama.

The relationship between the two leaders is currently tense — notably over the issue of the timing and urgency of thwarting Iran. Obama’s office rebuffed Netanyahu’s request for a face-to-face meeting with the president on this trip. Netanyahu’s staff suggested that the prime minister travel to Washington to accommodate Obama, but the White House would not arrange a meeting, citing scheduling difficulties.

Netanyahu was also reportedly set to speak Friday with Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney.

Earlier Friday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated the goal that “the US and Israel and the international community can work together” to prevent Iran attaining a nuclear weapon. “Hopefully we can resolve these issues peacefully as opposed to militarily,” Panetta said.

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