Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will set out a “clear red line” for Iran’s disputed nuclear drive in his U.N. speech on Thursday, an Israeli official said, adding that the plan could be pursued together with the United States.
Netanyahu faces the world body a day after U.S. President Barack Obama disappointed some Israelis by imposing no ultimatum to the Iranians in his own address, though he did warn that time for diplomacy with Tehran “is not unlimited”.
Israel sees a mortal threat in a nuclear-armed Iran and has long threatened to strike its arch-foe pre-emptively, agitating war-wary world powers as they pursue sanctions and negotiations.
Complicating Netanyahu’s strategy have been his testy relations with Obama as a U.S. election looms, and the reluctance of many Israelis to trigger an unprecedented conflict with Iran, which denies that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and has pledged wide-ranging retaliation if attacked.
“The prime minister will set a clear red line in his speech that will not contradict Obama’s remarks. Obama said Iran won’t have nuclear weapons. The prime minister will clarify the way in which Iran won’t have nuclear arms,” a senior Israeli official said en route to New York.
Though he has not previously detailed when Israel might be willing to go to war, Netanyahu has said Iran could have enough low-enriched uranium by early 2013 to refine to a high level of fissile purity for a first nuclear device. Israel worries that this final step, if taken, could happen too quickly or quietly to be prevented.
Iran has said it has no plans to enrich uranium beyond the 20 percent purity required to run a reactor producing medical isotopes. That level, however, brings raw uranium exponentially closer to the 90 percent enrichment required for bomb fuel.