Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is confident the world will come round to see "the wisdom" of his insistence on laying down "red lines" for Iran over its nuclear drive, he said today.
Speaking to the English-language Jerusalem Post newspaper, Netanyahu said he would not stop pushing for the international community to lay down red lines for Iran, which if crossed, would spark a harsh response — a veiled reference to a military strike.
"I started speaking about the Iranian threat 16 years ago. If I was not a lone voice then, I was one of the few, and then others joined. And then I started speaking about the need for economic sanctions against Iran. I wasn't the only voice, but I was one of the few," he said, referring to issues which have since been broadly adopted by the West.
"Now I speak about red lines for Iran. So far I am one of the few; I hope others will join. It takes time to persuade people of the wisdom of this policy," he told the right-leaning daily.
Over the past fortnight, Netanyahu has repeatedly called for the world to set out "clear red lines" in what was understood as a sharp message to the White House, prompting a rather public spat with Washington, which rejected his call.
"We are absolutely firm about the president's commitment (to stop Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon) here, but it is not useful to be parsing it, to be setting deadlines one way or the other, red lines," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week.
Israel has said a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and has wielded the threat of military action, but Washington backs a regime of increasingly tough sanctions and diplomatic arm twisting, saying it is not the time for a strike.
"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," he said.
"There is a difference between a deadline that deals with time, and a red line that deals with process, with the actual advance in the nuclear programme. I think the question is when the crucial stage is passed beyond which you will be hard pressed to stop Iran from assembling a nuclear bomb," he explained.
Asked what he meant by a red line, Netanyahu said it was not the time to be sharing such details publicly.
"A red line is something that Iran knows it cannot cross or it will suffer the consequences. Believe me, when they see it, they will stop.
"Right now the important thing is to establish the need for this in principle. Working it out in detail is something we don't necessarily share right now with the public."
Israel and much of the West believes Tehran is using its civilian nuclear programme as a cover for building a weapons capability, a charge the Iranians have repeatedly denied.