In coming days, four foreign ministers will visit Israel: from Italy, Germany, Bulgaria (all members of the European Union), and Norway. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to take advantage of their visits to make political statements regarding Iran, demanding Europe impose crippling sanctions aimed directly at the civilian population in order to bring a halt to the country’s nuclear program.
The prime minister, who will meet with the foreign ministers, is expected to tell them that the time that remains for Israel to prevent Iran from securing nuclear weapons is limited. He will also tell them that if the international community does not present Iran with a red line, then Israel will have no choice but to carry out a unilateral military strike in order to defend itself and stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Europe began recently to assess the effects of the oil embargo and economic sanctions it imposed on Iran on July 21 of this year. Israel and the United States are pressing Europe to tighten the economic sanctions and increase the country’s political isolation.
During the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday [Sept. 3], the prime minister referred to pressure on Iran, saying that the recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was published over the weekend [Aug. 30] and presented significant progress made to the Iranian nuclear program, “confirms what I have been saying for a long time: The international sanctions may be burdensome for the Iranian economy, but they are not causing even the slightest delay to the advancement of the Iranian nuclear program.”
Netanyahu continued: “The Iranians are using the talks with the [world] powers to earn time in order to advance their nuclear program. I believe the truth needs to be stated: the international community is not presenting Iran with a clear red line, and Iran doesn’t see international determination to stop its nuclear program.”
“Until Iran perceives a clear red line, and this determination, it won’t stop the advancement of the Iranian nuclear program, and Iran cannot be allowed to possess nuclear weapons,” he continued.
Maariv revealed the harsh criticism voiced by senior sources in Jerusalem against the administration in Washington. Netanyahu believes not only that the IAEA report proves that there’s no time for diplomacy, but also that recent statements by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, demonstrate that the United States will not attack Iran. [Dempsey, speaking to reporters in London Aug. 30, said the he doesn’t want to be complicit if Israel strikes Iran.]
However, sources at the prime minister’s office hope that US President Barack Obama will intensify his rhetoric on the Iranian issue to include a clear threat of a military strike, if Iran doesn’t halt its nuclear program. Obama is likely to make statements to that effect this Tuesday [Sept. 4] during the Democratic National Convention, unless he waits for his speech at the UN General Assembly. [In his acceptance speech, Obama pledged to maintain support for Israel and to oppose Iran's nuclear efforts.]
If President Obama chooses to tighten the sanctions on Iran, this could influence Netanyahu’s decision on whether to strike unilaterally before the US. elections in November.