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Republican challenger Mitt Romney has accused him of throwing Israel “under the bus”.
Without mentioning Clinton by name but pointedly parroting her use of the word “deadline”, Netanyahu said not setting a clear boundary for Iran would only encourage Iran to continue its quest for nuclear arms.
“If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it’s doing. It’s continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining a nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs,” he said.
“So far we can say with certainty that diplomacy and sanctions haven’t worked. The sanctions have hurt the Iranian economy but they haven’t stopped the Iranian nuclear programme. That’s a fact. And the fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs,” he added.
Netanyahu also watched troops conduct an infantry exercise in the Golan Heights, where he said “the Israeli army is prepared for any challenge”. Israel captured the rocky plateau from Syria in a 1967 war and then annexed it in a move never recognised internationally.
Widely thought to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence.
Recent tougher Israeli rhetoric on the issue has stoked speculation that Israel might attack Iran before the U.S. ballot in November, believing that Obama would give it military help and not risk alienating pro-Israeli voters.
But over the past week, Netanyahu, in calling for a “red line”, had appeared to be backing away from military action and preparing the ground for a possible meeting with Obama this month, when both address the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
“The line is the president is committed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and he will use every tool in the arsenal of American power to achieve that goal,” Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, said on Monday.
Netanyahu has faced opposition at home to the idea that Israel might attack Iran on its own. Opinion polls show a majority of Israelis do not want their military to strike Iran without U.S. support.
An Israeli cabinet minister on Tuesday invoked his country’s ostensibly secret 2007 air raid on an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor to suggest Israel could successfully strike Iran without U.S. support.