Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dismissed as “completely groundless” allegations he is manufacturing a crisis with US President Barack Obama just before the November 6 American election to influence the outcome in favor of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Netanyahu, in a Rosh Hashana interview with The Jerusalem Post that will appear in full on Sunday, said his call for the United States and the international community to set red lines for Iran was not at all connected with the US political campaign.
“It has nothing to do with the American elections, because the Iranian nuclear program doesn’t care about the American political calendar,” the prime minister said.
“If the centrifuges stop miraculously, if they stop preparing enriched uranium to make atomic bombs, then I suppose I wouldn’t have to speak out.
“But the Iranian nuclear program proceeds unabated and they don’t care about the internal American political calendar. For me this is a policy issue, a security issue, and not a political issue,” he said.
Netanyahu characterized his post-midnight telephone call Wednesday with Obama as a “good conversation.”
“We spoke about our common goal of stopping Iran from developing its nuclear weapons program, and our desire to closely coordinate our efforts,” he related.
When asked whether Obama referred to his comments that those who do not place red lines in front of the Iranians cannot place a red light in front of Israel, Netanyahu replied that he was “not going to get into details of this discussion.
“Obviously I have my views and am not exactly shy about expressing them when I think that Israel’s vital security concerns are involved,” Netanyahu said. “This is my responsibility as the prime minister of the Jewish state.
We are facing the greatest security challenge of any country on the face of the earth, and when I feel I need to speak out, I do.”
\’When we have differences of opinion we don\’t sweep them under the rug\’
Obama phoned Netanyahu past midnight Wednesday following a day when friction between Jerusalem and Washington burst into the open as Netanyahu made his comments about red lines and red lights. Just before the phone call, Israeli officials confirmed that the leaders would not be meeting during Netanyahu’s 60-hour visit to the US later this month.
Netanyahu, who described the current level of intelligence and security cooperation with the US as “very close” and “very important,” said that did not mean the two countries did not have different perspectives.
“It is only natural that we do,” he said. “And when we have a difference of views we don’t have to sweep them under the rug. I believe there has to be clear limits drawn to Iran’s advance toward nuclear weapons, and that is not something I intend to be quiet about.
On other matters, Netanyahu revealed that he has not yet spoken to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, though he said Israel had “many contacts with the Egyptian government, primarily through our military contacts.”
He said that the new Egyptian government still needed to “decide the depth of its commitment to the peace treaty. We are deeply committed to it, I hope they will be too.”
\’It\’s In Israel and Turkey\’s common interest to resume a fruitful dialogue\’
The prime minister also used the interview to send a conciliatory signal to Turkey.
“We both have a border with Syria, and I am sure we both want to see a stable and peaceful Syria,” he said of Ankara. “That is a common interest. There are other common interests that come to mind. I think it is in our common interest to find a way to be able to stop – to arrest – the slide in our relationship and resume a fruitful dialogue.”
Turkish-Israeli ties nosedived after the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid in 2010, and Turkey is demanding Israel apologize for the incident, pay compensation to the families of the nine people killed, and lift the blockade of Gaza.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman – who has been staunchly opposed to an Israeli apology to Turkey – said two weeks ago that he “could live” with an apology similar to what the Americans gave the Pakistanis after accidentally killing two dozen Pakistani soldiers in 2011. The Americans said that were “sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military.”
Asked whether that was an apology formula currently being considered, Netanyahu replied: “It is one of them.”
He would not discuss, however, whether the Turks had backed off from their demand for Israel to lift the naval blockade of Gaza, something few believe this government would ever consider as part of a reconciliation package.