Netanyahu: Israel, U.S. coordinated 'on highest levels' on Iran nuclear program
Speaking with Israeli media in New York after his UN speech, Netanyahu says his address was meant to clarify to the world that 'nothing has changed' in Iran's race toward a nuclear weapon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that his government is coordinated with Washington "on the highest levels" concerning the Iranian nuclear program, and that Israel reserves the right to defend itself against a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic.
In interviews to Israel's Channel 2 and Channel 10, Netanyahu said that "nothing has changed in the Iranian nuclear program… perhaps people did not know the pace of progress [of the Iranian program] and that is what my speech meant to present. Time is running out."
When asked about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, Netanyahu said that "I have not limited for a minute Israel's right to act to defend itself at any time."
Concerning his speech at the UN General Assembly, during which he presented a diagram of the Iranian nuclear progress (and which became a subject of mostly satirical coverage worldwide), Netanyahu said that "there is always a difficult cerebral, intellectual mission, how to take a complex issue and make it simple."
Netanyahu added he had "a pretty long talk" with U.S. President Barack Obama, followed by "a one-on-one meeting with [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton. Our teams are talking on the highest levels. I think Israel and the U.S. can reach much more concrete understandings than what commentators may think."
On Friday, Obama and Netanyahu expressed solidarity on the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, amid signs of easing tensions over their differences on how to confront Tehran.
Obama, who opted not to meet Netanyahu on his U.S. visit, spoke by phone to the Israeli leader, who used his UN speech on Thursday to keep up pressure on Washington to set a "red line" for Tehran. But in a softening of his approach, Netanyahu also signaled that no Israeli attack on Iran was imminent before the November 6 U.S. presidential election.
"The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," the White House said in a statement. But it stopped short of saying Obama had given any ground on his resistance to issuing an ultimatum to Tehran as Netanyahu has demanded.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney focused in his weekly podcast on criticizing Obama on not meeting Netanyahu.
"President Obama continues to show that he does not grasp the dimensions of what’s occurring and has no strategy to protect and advance our interests," Romney said of Obama's foreign policy. "We’ve seen a confused, slow, and inconsistent response to the terrorist attack in Libya, a refusal to be frank with the American people about what happened, and a complete failure to explain the growing terrorist threat we face in the region. Instead of standing with Israel—our closest ally in the region—he downgrades Israel to merely, quote, one of our closest allies in the Middle East. And he refuses to meet with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at a moment when a show of solidarity before the world is needed."
Both candidates spoke with Netanyahu by phone on Friday, and Romney also released statement of support of Netanyahu's speech at the UN General Assembly. The Republican candidate complimented the speech, but joked to reporters that he wasn't as satisfied with the cartoonish chart of the Iranian bomb the Israeli leader presented at the UN to illustrate his speech. "I complimented him on his address at the United Nations and suggested that his graphic was not up to the normal Boston Consulting Group standards," Romney said, immediately adding: "no, I didn't actually do that, but I was thinking that."