Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the United States had forfeited any moral right to stop Israel taking action against Iran’s nuclear programme because it had refused to be firm with Tehran itself.
In comments which appeared to bring the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran closer, Netanyahu took the administration of President Barack Obama to task after Washington rebuffed his own call to set a red line for Tehran’s nuclear drive.
“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’” said Netanyahu, speaking in English.
“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,” he added, addressing a news conference with Bulgaria’s prime minister.
Netanyahu has been pushing Obama to adopt a tougher line against Iran, arguing that setting a clear boundary for Iran’s uranium enrichment activities and imposing stronger economic sanctions could deter Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and mitigate the need for military action.
But on Monday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would not set a deadline in further talks with Iran, saying there was still time for diplomacy to work.
Netanyahu’s comments came as diplomats said six world powers - including the United States - were poised to voice “serious concern” about Iran’s uranium enrichment programme and to urge Tehran to open up access to suspected nuclear sites.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that Washington would have little more than a year to act to stop Tehran if it decided to produce a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu has had a strained relationship with Obama over Iran and other issues, such as Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
But he has never put differences with Obama - who has pledged he will “always have Israel’s back” and is deep in a re-election campaign - in the context of morality.
The website of Israel’s Haaretz daily newspaper said Netanyahu had carried out “an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government”.
Iran, which denies it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, has threatened to retaliate against Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf if it attacked, and Obama’s re-election bid could be thrown off course by a new war.