Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday launched an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government over its stance on the Iranian nuclear program.
“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ 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,” Netanyahu told reporters on Tuesday.
“Now if Iran knows that there is no red line. 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 nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs,” he said. . .
On Monday, speaking to reporters in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “It is not useful to be … setting deadlines one way or another” or to outline “red lines” for how far the U.S. can allow Iran’s nuclear program to advance.
She repeated that President Barack Obama has stated unequivocally that the United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and that U.S. support for Israel’s security is unwavering.
But she said she would not speak about ongoing discussions between the U.S. and Israel, calling such talk “not helpful for the diplomacy.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said the administration is not prepared to make such a public commitment.
“We’re not setting deadlines,” Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio.
This comes weeks after an “explosive confrontation” between Netanyahu and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro on the administration’s Iran policy. Jeffrey Goldberg recounts an interview Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) gave about the argument. Rogers is the chair the House Intelligence Committee and witnessed the exchange:
Rogers told a Michigan radio interviewer earlier this week that he had not previously witnessed such a high-level confrontation, and he described Israeli leaders as being at “wits’ end” over what they see as President Obama’s unwillingness to provide them with his “red lines” in the effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program. He also said that neither the Israelis nor the Iranians believe that Obama would use force to stop the nuclear program. (UPDATE: Rogers said as well he believes the Israelis will “probably” bomb Iran if they don’t get clearer red lines from the U.S.)
Rogers description of the meeting directly contradicts repeated Administration assertions that there is “no daylight” on the Iran issue with the Israeli government. Shortly after the meeting took place, Israeli press reports appeared suggesting that Netanyahu and Shapiro had engaged in an argument, but Shapiro soon dismissed those reports, calling them “silly” and saying, “The published account of that meeting did not reflect what actually occurred in the meeting. The conversations were entirely friendly and professional.”
Rogers, speaking to WJR radio host Frank Beckmann, painted a very different picture. He said the meeting, originally scheduled to be a discussion of intelligence and technical issues between himself and the prime minister, spun out of control when Netanyahu began lambasting Shapiro over the Administration’s Iran policy. When Beckmann asked Rogers to describe the tenor of the meeting, he said: “Very tense. Some very sharp… exchanges and it was very, very clear the Israelis had lost their patience with the (Obama) Administration.” He went on, “There was no doubt. You could not walk out of that meeting and think that they had not lost their patience with this Administration.”
Rogers said Israeli frustration grows from what they see — and he sees — as a refusal by the Obama Administration to outline an endgame: “(I)t was very clear the overarching policy has been frustrating mainly because I think it’s not very clear. What we walked out of that meeting knowing is that the Administration was trying to defend itself.” By the end, he said, there was a “sharp exchange between the Administration’s representative there, our ambassador there, and Mr. Netanyahu, which was unusual to say the least, but I thought at the end of the day maybe productive.”
Beckmann then asked: “Is it inaccurate to say it was a shouting match?” Rogers answered: “I can say that there were elevated concerns on behalf of the Israelis.” When asked if he had “ever seen that sort of thing before,” Rogers answered: “No not that directly. We’ve had sharp exchanges with other heads of state and in intelligence services and other things, but nothing at that level that I’ve seen in all my time where people were clearly that agitated, clearly that worked up about a particular issue where there was a very sharp exchange.”