Hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the U.S. and Israel need to draw a clear line in the sand with Iran—and insisted such comments have nothing to do with the quickly approaching U.S. elections.
He insisted that Iran is now six months away from having 90% of the enriched uranium that would be needed to create a nuclear bomb.
“I think that you have to place that red line before them now, before it’s too late,” Netanyahu told David Gregory on NBC’s Meet the Press.
When asked if Tehran had already crossed the line, the Israeli leader said, “They’re in the red zone. You know, they’re in the last 20 yards. and you can’t let them cross that goal line. You can’t let them score a touchdown.”
The Obama administration wants more time to try non-military options—such as diplomacy and sanctions—which it hopes will force Tehran to stop its suspected nuclear work. But Netanyahu has repeatedly said Iran is close to acquiring a nuclear bomb.
Earlier this week, he criticized Washington’s policy, saying the U.S. had failed to set “red lines” and make clear what would provoke a violent response against Iran.
Netanyahu has long been friendly with Mitt Romney, ever since their days working at the Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s. Obama, meanwhile, has long had a prickly relationship with the Israeli leader, publicly illustrated last year when Obama was caught on a hot mic telling then-French President Nikolas Sarkozy, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”
Considering Netanyahu’s personal relationships with both Obama and Romney, plus Romney’s more hawkish rhetoric on Iran, many analysts believe Netanyahu is actively lobbying for a Romney presidency, something the Israeli leader denied.
“I’m not going to be drawn into the American election,” he told Gregory. “What’s guiding my statements isn’t the American political calendar but the Iranian nuclear calendar.”
“We cherish the bipartisan support for Israel in the United States…This is not an electoral issue. It is not based on any electoral consideration,” he added to CNN’s Candy Crowley.
When Crowley suggested Iran could legitimately be seeking peaceful purposes for enriching uranium, Netanyahu replied scornfully. “You think so Candy?…This is a country that denies the Holocaust, promises to wipe out Israel, is engaging terror throughout the world,” he said. “It’s like Timothy McVeigh walking into a shop in Oklahoma City and saying, ‘I’d like to turn my garden, I’d like to buy some fertilizer. How much do you want? Oh I don’t know, 20,000 pounds.’ Come on, we know they are working toward a weapon.”
In an interview on Sunday’s Meet the Press, Netanyahu also insisted that a policy of containment for Iran would not work because the country is guided by a “leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism.”
Meanwhile, in a separate interview on the same program, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told host David Gregory that America will take no option, including a military one, off the table for ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
However, “they’re not there yet,” she said. “There is time and space for the pressure we are mounting, which is unprecedented in terms of sanctions, to still yield results.”
Rice said the sanctions would reach their “high point” in July. Meanwhile, she said, the Iranian economy is suffering, the country’s oil production is plummeting and its currency is dropping.