Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office. Netanyahu on Sunday stressed he has the right and duty to take drastic measures to protect national security, in what local media said could be a veiled threat against Iran. © Gali Tibbon - AFP
Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office
AFP
Last updated: December 4, 2011

Netanyahu: Israel will do what it takes for its security

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday stressed he has the right and duty to take drastic measures to protect national security, in what local media said could be a veiled threat against Iran.

"I would like to believe that we will always act with responsibility, courage and determination to make the right decisions, that will ensure our future and security," Netanyahu said.

Speaking at the annual memorial service for Israel's founding premier David Ben Gurion, Netanyahu noted the late leader's "willingness to make the tough decisions, necessary" to ensure Israel's security and future.

"From within and the outside... great pressure was applied to Ben Gurion" to not declare Israel's independence in 1948, said Netanyahu. "They all told him -- the time is not right, not now."

Netanyahu did not mention Iran in his speech or its nuclear programme.

But Israel's private-run Channel 2 as well as public Channel 1 noted Netanyahu seemed to be comparing what he sees as Israel's duty to curb what the Jewish state says is Iran's nuclear ambition and Ben Gurion's dilemma on declaring the state of Israel.

"While it seems to be a speech about the first premier and his decision to found the state, this is actually a speech Netanyahu made about himself, and his decision to attack Iran," said Amit Segal, political reporter for Channel 2.

Israel, which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, has long accused Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under cover of its civil nuclear programme.

Tehran strongly denies the charge and has accused Israel of trying to sabotage its civil nuclear programme and kill its nuclear scientists.

Netanyahu's comments come amid growing tension over Iran and after US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta vowed on Friday to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but arguing for the administration's emphasis on diplomacy and sanctions rather than military action, which had not been ruled out by President Barack Obama but was "a last resort."

Last week Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak ruled out a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities "for the moment," in remarks to public radio, but said that the Jewish state would keep all options open.

"We have no intention of acting for the moment... We should not engage in war when it is not necessary, but there may come a time or another when we are forced to face tests," Barak said.

"Our position has not changed on three points: a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, we are determined to stop that, and all options are on the table," he added.

But Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan on Thursday reiterated his contention that Iran is sufficiently far from having nuclear weapons, and emphasised his objection to a military strike at this timepoint.

"The military option should be the last alternative," Dagan said.

Israel has pushed Washington and the EU for tough sanctions against Tehran, but warned that it would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and that military action to stop the programme remained an option.

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