In a blistering response to a Sunday statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States is “not setting deadlines” for Iran to abandon its alleged weapons program, Netanyahu said that if no “red line” is established, Iran will continue to pursue an atomic bomb.
“The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait 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 told reporters in Jerusalem.
The administration has pressed Israel to hold off on threatened military action against Iran and has refrained from directly issuing its own military threat, arguing that there is still time to achieve results through diplomacy backed by tightening economic sanctions.
Although international inspectors have cited continuing advances in Iran’s nuclear program and diplomatic negotiations have stalled, U.S. intelligence analysts believe that Iranian leaders have not yet made a political decision to produce a nuclear bomb. Iran has said its nuclear program is solely for peaceful energy purposes.
Disagreement over meeting
Just hours after Netanyahu’s remarks Tuesday, U.S. and Israeli officials acknowledged that Netanyahu had sought a meeting with Obama when they both attend the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month.
“The White House informed Jerusalem that the meeting . . . won’t be possible due to the president’s agenda,” the Israeli Embassy in Washington said of a possible New York meeting.
The White House issued a statement saying that a meeting was impossible because “they’re simply not in the city at the same time.” Obama plans to depart New York immediately after his Sept. 25 address to the General Assembly, while Netanyahu will not arrive to deliver his speech until Sept. 27. Obama and Netanyahu, the statement said, were in “frequent contact,” and Netanyahu will meet with Clinton “and other officials.”
Obama, who will spend only one night in New York, does not plan to meet with any foreign leaders at the U.N. session, according to an administration official who spoke about the president’s schedule on the condition of anonymity.
In a further statement late Tuesday that indicated growing concern over the tensions, the White House said Obama and Netanyahu had spoken by telephone “for an hour tonight as part of their ongoing consultations.” It said they discussed “the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues” and “reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward.”