Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran so far have been ineffective and that the international community should impose tougher measures on Tehran's oil industry and its Central Bank.
Speaking at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Netanyahu said that Iran was penetrating Iraq at a fast pace and that instability in the country had increased since the U.S. withdrew its forces.
Netanyahu said that the situation called for a strengthening of Israel's defenses against aerial and ground attacks.
Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!
Netanyahu's comments were the latest in his efforts to ramp up pressure on the U.S. to take stronger action against Iran.
On Saturday, a senior Israeli diplomat said that the prime minister was not pleased with the way the U.S. administration was managing its sanctions campaign against Iran, adding that Netanyahu wanted the U.S. to target Iran's central bank and crude oil industry.
The diplomat said that two months after the International Atomic Energy Agency released its report maintaining Iran was moving forward with its plan to obtain nuclear weapons, significant measures have yet to be taken. There is no chance that Iran would consider suspending its nuclear program unless paralyzing sanctions are imposed, such as those that affect its central bank or crude oil industry, the diplomat added.
Netanyahu told leading Australian daily The Australian on Saturday that he believed sanctions were taking a toll on Iran's economy.
"For the first time I see Iran wobble under the sanctions that have been adopted and especially under the threat of strong sanctions on their central bank," Netanyahu said. The prime minister added, however, that the sanctions were still not affecting Iran's nuclear program, and that the West needed to impose tougher measures against Iran's central bank and crude oil industry.
Echoing Netanyahu's remarks, Deputy Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bogey) Ya'alon said on Sunday that he U.S. government was not advancing tough sanctions against Iran due to internal political considerations during an election year.
Ya'alon said that while the Iranian issue remains at the top of the global agenda, and European leaders in France and Britain are taking a hard line against Tehran by understanding the need for sanctions against it's oil exports and central bank, this was not the case with the White House.
"The Senate passed a resolution by a vote of 100 to 0 to impose these sanctions, but the U.S. government is hesitating for fear of raising oil prices, probably because this is an election year. In this sense, this is certainly a disappointment," Ya'alon said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday also joined Netanyahu and Ya'alon in urging more international action on Iran. Lieberman told Israel Radio that now "is the time for the international community to shift from words to actions."
Asked whether Israel would take military action against Iran's nuclear facilities, Lieberman was quoted by AFP as saying it was not for Israel "to take on a mission that is one for the international community, but it must keep all options on the table."
"Iran is not a threat to Israel alone. For the Gulf countries, Iran is also problem number one," AFP quoted the foreign minister as saying. "Iran has taken control of Iraq and wants to do the same in Saudi Arabia to be able to dictate energy policy in the whole world."
Meanwhile, senior diplomatic officials claimed Sunday night that the EU would probably decide on Jan. 23 whether to pass "crippling sanctions" against Iran's oil exports. "It is symbolic that precisely on International Holocaust Memorial Day a decision will be made that will perhaps change the gloomy picture vis-a-vis Iran," Ya'alon added.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed confidence that the EU would pass the far-reaching sanctions on Iran's oil industry and possibly other sectors during the EU meeting next week.
He also said he hoped the 27-member European bloc could agree on further sanctions against Syria within the next 10 days over its military crackdown on protesters but gave no details.
EU states have agreed in principle to ban imports of Iranian oil over Tehran's nuclear program. They are working on details of how the ban will be implemented before a Jan. 23 foreign ministers' meeting.
Iran has threatened to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if foreign sanctions are imposed on its crude exports, a move that could trigger military conflict with economies dependent on Gulf oil.
"We must not be put off further sanctions by bluster or statements from Iran. This is an increasingly dangerous situation that Iran is developing a military nuclear programme," Hague told Sky News. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Hague also said that if Iran continued on its "dangerous course" it would lead to nuclear proliferation across the Middle East that would be extremely dangerous for the people of Iran, for the region and for the peace of the world.
"Our sanctions are part of trying to get Iran to change course and to enter negotiations and we should not be deterred from implementing those. We will continue to intensify our own sanctions and those of the European Union," he said.
Vice Premier and Galilee and Negev Development Minister Silvan Shalom also commented on the Iran issue on Sunday, saying, "We must tighten pressure on Iran. The regime in Tehran believes that the development of nuclear weapons will ensure its survival. Sanctions work. They have proven themselves in the past and it is important that they be expanded and intensified.