Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed accusations that he was trying to sway the upcoming United States presidential election with his recent fiery criticism of American policy towards Iran.
The relationship between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama has never been that strong, but may have reached its nadir this week following Netanyahu’s assertion this week that nation’s that failed to set red lines for Iran lacked the “moral right” to prevent Israel from launching a military strike.
He never specifically mentioned the United States by name, but clearly his comments were aimed at the Obama administration.
Critics say that Netanyahu intentionally timed his criticism two months before the U.S. election in the hopes of undercutting Obama in his re-election bid against Republican rival Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has accused Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus.”
Netanyahu rejected such talk during a Friday interview.
“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 the charge, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
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.
The White House has stated its belief that more time and diplomatic pressure can avert the crisis.
Netanyahu’s public criticism followed days of incessant public demands for Washington to impose red lines on Iran and 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.
In his interview with Hayom, Netanyahu appears to take another swipe at Obama, questioning his administration’s assurance that it will not let Iran develop the bomb.
“But what if the United States doesn’t take action? That’s the question that must be asked,” he said.
However, some senior members of the prime minister’s Cabinet have urged him to halt public criticism of Obama.
In a stinging rebuke, Time magazine columnist Joe Klein accused Netanyahu of not only trying to sway the U.S. election, but of also trying to goad the country into a war with Iran.
“Netanyahu’s recent behavior is outrageous,” he wrote.