Netanyahu: 'I Won’t Wait Until It’s Too Late' to Decide on Israeli Attack on Iran

In interview with CBS News, prime minister calls on U.S. to 'ratchet up sanctions and show will to use force'; says world distracted by Mideast turmoil, lacks 'sense of urgency' on 'messianic, apocalyptic' Tehran.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an unusually explicit warning of a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear installations on Sunday, saying that he “won’t wait until it’s too late” to reach such a decision.

Appearing on the CBS' “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Netanyahu repeatedly alluded to an Israeli “go it alone” scenario. He said that because Israel is more vulnerable to an Iranian attack than the United States it would “have to address this question of how to stop Iran before the U.S. does.” Iran “would be sorely mistaken if they think that Israel will let them” make an atomic bomb, he added.

When asked specifically by veteran host Bob Schieffer “when will you make a decision on whether to attack Iran?” Netanyahu responded: “I can tell you one thing – before it’s too late.”

“I am determined to do whatever is necessary to defend my country from a regime that threatens us with renewed annihilation,” Netanyahu added.

Although he refrained from leveling the kind of direct criticism that strained his relations with the Obama Administration in a similar “Meet the Press” appearance last September, Netanyahu clearly urged the U.S. to “ratchet up sanctions and to demonstrate by action that the military option that is on the table – is truly on the table.”

“They have to know that you are prepared to take military action. It’s the only thing that will get their attention,” Netanyahu said.

He called on the administration to make clear to Tehran that the recent election of the “moderate” Hassan Rohani as president won’t change its policy of preventing Iran from going nuclear. “His strategy,” Netanyahu said of Rohani, “is to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Smile and build the bomb. He can’t be allowed to get away with it.”

Netanyahu expressed concern that the “international community has lost its sense of urgency” vis-a-vis Iran because of other crises in the Middle East. However, he added, “all the problems that we have will be dwarfed by this messianic apocalyptic regime that would have atomic bombs.”

Netanyahu warned Americans that Iran is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles – ICBMs – that are capable of reaching “the American mainland.”

“It’s to reach you, not us,” he said. “They don’t need them to reach us.”

While saying that the Iranians “took heed of the ‘red line’ that I sketched out at the UN” they were nonetheless getting “closer and closer” to nuclear capacity. They have accumulated 190 kilos of 20 percent enriched uranium of the 250 kilos needed to manufacture a bomb – and they are building "alternative route" thorough plutonium, Netanyahu added.

Asked about the possibility that the U.S. would cut military aid to Egypt, Netanyahu said that Israel’s only concern was for the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, of which the U.S. assistance is a component. But to make clear that Egypt was not foremost on his mind, Netanyahu veered off course midway through his reply to return to the clear and present danger of Iran.

Screen shot of PM Netanyahu on 'Face the Nation.'

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