Reuters Reports: Analysing Thursday’s address in which Netanyahu literally drew a “red line” on a cartoon bomb to show how close Iran was to building nuclear weaponry, commentators saw his deadline for any military action falling in early or mid-2013, well after U.S. elections in November and a possible snap Israeli poll. “The ‘decisive year’ of 2012 will pass without decisiveness,” wrote Ofer Shelah of Maariv newspaper on Friday.
Without explicitly saying so, Netanyahu implied Israel would attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities if they were allowed to process potential weapons-grade material beyond his red line.
Maariv and another mass-circulation Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, said spring 2013 now looked like Netanyahu’s target date, given his prediction that by then Iran may have amassed enough 20 percent-enriched uranium for a first bomb, if purified further.
But the front pages of the liberal Haaretz and pro-government Israel Hayom newspapers cited mid-2013 – Netanyahu’s outside estimate for when the Iranians would be ready to embark on the last stage of building such a weapon, which could take only “a few months, possibly a few weeks”.
Iran, which denies it is seeking nuclear arms, said Netanyahu’s speech made “baseless and absurd allegations” and that the Islamic Republic “reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack”. Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal.
Israeli diplomats were reluctant to elaborate on Netanyahu’s speech, saying its main aim was to illustrate the threat from Tehran.
Asked on Israel’s Army Radio whether Netanyahu had signalled he would strike in the spring if U.S. and European Union sanctions fail to curb Iran’s nuclear work, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “No, no, I would not go that far.”