Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday denied accusations he was interfering in U.S. politics after coming under fire for fiercely criticising Washington’s handling of Iran.
Relations between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama hit a new low this week after the Israeli leader said nations that failed to set red lines for Iran did not have the “moral right” to prevent Israel from launching a military strike.
He did not mention the United States by name, but the comments were clearly aimed at Obama and his administration.
Coming less than two months before a U.S. presidential election, critics accused Netanyahu of seeking to influence the vote - a charge the Israeli prime minister rejected in interviews published in local media on Friday.
“That’s nonsense, because what’s guiding me is not the election in the United States but the centrifuges in Iran,” he told Israel’s Hayom daily newspaper.
“If the Iranians … had stopped enriching material and preparing a bomb until the U.S. election was over, I would have been able to wait,” he added.
Israel and Western powers believe Iran is developing the technology to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this and says its nuclear project is entirely peaceful.
Netanyahu has constantly urged the United States and Europe to apply more pressure on Tehran, believing that only the threat of credible military action will persuade Iran to back down.
However, this week’s outspoken criticism - which followed days of incessant public demands for Washington to impose red lines on Iran - provoked a sharp response in parts of the U.S. press and a rare letter of admonishment from a U.S. senator.
“It appears that you have injected politics into one of the most profound security challenges of our time, Iran’s illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons,” California Democrat Barbara Boxer said, adding that she was one of Israel’s staunchest supporters.