Asserting in a dramatic speech to the United Nations that Iran will be ready to build a nuclear weapon by next summer, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told leaders they must draw a clear red line to force the regime in Tehran to back down and end its uranium enrichment programme.
Mr Netanyahu, who brandished a chart drawn in the shape of a bomb with a dangling fuse, insisted that his purpose was to prevent a war, not start one. He added that not delivering the ultimatum he proposes would be akin to what happened when the world waited "too long" to deal with Hitler. "We can't let that happen," he said, insisting the stratagem would work. "I believe that, faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs and that is the placing of a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons programme. Red lines don't lead to war; red lines prevent war."
However, his speech threatened to widen a rift between himself and President Barack Obama, who has resisted the drawing of any line that might trigger military action were Iran to ignore it. A nuclear Iran, Mr Netanyahu argued, "would be as bad as a nuclear al-Qa'ida. Just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons??? Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who'd be safe in Europe? Who'd be safe in America? Who'd be safe anywhere?" And he denied Israel and the US were at odds. "Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue and I am confident that we can chart a path forward together."
With his bomb sketch, Mr Netanyahu said Iran was in stage two of its enrichment programme. He drew an actual red line with a pen below the final stage. "Iran is 70 per cent of the way there and... by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there it is only a few more weeks before they have enriched enough for a bomb."
Mr Obama has consistently said that all options remain on the table. In his address to the UN on Tuesday, he said he continued to look for a diplomatic solution but added that the time for that was not unlimited.
Speaking minutes before the Israeli leader, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, pressed for "non-member observer status" at the UN, to allow his body to participate in future General Assembly debates and seek membership in UN agencies and the International Criminal Court. It is a step down from the more ambitious bid by Mr Abbas at the UN last year to gain full statehood that was frustrated by US opposition. He said that "intensive consultations with the various regional organisations and the state members" were under way, while adding that the achievement of full statehood at the UN remained his final goal. He accused Israel of waging a "campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people via the demolition of their homes".