WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel has a sovereign right to decide what is in its best interest in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions whether the United States agrees or not, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that he agrees with U.S. President Barack Obama’s end-of-the-year deadline for progress in efforts to engage Iran diplomatically to resolve dispute over its nuclear program.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program, Biden said Israel can determine for itself how best to deal with the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“We cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination, that they’re existentially threatened,” Biden said.
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, said neither the United States or Israel could allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon.
“The U.S., like Israel ... has determined unequivocally that Iran must not have nuclear military capability,” Ayalon told Israel’s Army Radio.
“A military operation in Iran is something difficult and complex and perhaps would have severe consequences and there could be serious damage, but this is much less dangerous and complicated than to allow a nuclear Iran,” he said.
Netanyahu, who took office in March, has said Israel cannot allow Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons and has not ruled out a possible military strike against Iran.
Israel has said a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence, noting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. Iran denies it is enriching uranium for military purposes, saying its nuclear development is aimed at generating electricity.
Israel bombed a site in Syria in 2007 that U.S. intelligence officials said was a nearly completed nuclear reactor being built with North Korean help. In 1981, Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor.
“If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice,” Biden said. “But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed.”
Similarly, Israel said it had never asked for Washington’s permission for operations or strategic policy.
“Of course, as allies we coordinate things and we make joint assessments but there should be no confusion, we do what is right and good for us according to our own estimates,” Ayalon said.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demand to suspend uranium enrichment, which could also be used to produce nuclear weapons.
The United States has joined Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain in inviting Iran to talks to resolve the nuclear dispute.
Israel’s Mossad intelligence chief Meir Dagan said last month a world embargo had altered the course of Tehran’s nuclear program since 2003, but that Iran could have an atomic weapon by 2014 unless these steps were intensified.
Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Jon Hemming