Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
plans to travel to Europe before the end of the year to press for tougher sanctions against Iran,
Israeli officials told The New York Times on Tuesday.
According to the report, the plans appeared to be an indication of a shifting Israeli emphasis toward efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program
by diplomatic means rather than military ones.
One senior Israeli government official said that the new strategy was to focus on Europe out of concern that the impending American presidential elections made any new action from Washington less likely.
Germany's Merkel, France's Hollande (Photo: Reuters)
Netanyahu is expected to meet with leaders in France and Germany and urge them to step up the already severe sanctions against Tehran, the official said.
“Our feeling is that with the elections and everything, we’ve not seen much on the American front except for sealing holes where the Iranians have found ways to get around the sanctions,” the official told NYT. “Up until now, it’s been the US and then the Europeans following. If it’s the other way around, so be it, we’ve got to go with what we’ve got.”
A recent meeting of European foreign ministers in Cyprus suggested some openness to further ratcheting up sanctions, the official said. He said he doesn't believe that the EU would impose a full trade embargo on the Islamic Republic, but added that "it’s always good to aim high and see what comes out of the wash.”
Other Israeli officials downplayed the notion of a policy shift regarding Iran and noted that Netanyahu’s plans for a trip to Europe have been finalized yet.
“We have been calling for a beefing up of sanctions all the time,” one official said.
Another cautioned that “Nobody has yet ascertained that the Europeans are ready to impose a new round of sanctions.” Determining the type of sanctions would require a lot of work, he said, and would carry serious economic consequences for Europe.
A Western source familiar with the issue said that EU foreign ministers are set to meet on October 15 in Luxemburg in order to discuss bolstered sanctions.
On Monday, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland
said that the recent plunge of Iran's currency shows the success of the "most punishing sanctions" seeking to halt Tehran's suspect nuclear program.
"From our perspective this speaks to the unrelenting and increasingly successful international pressure that we are all bringing to bear on the Iranian economy. It's under incredible strain," Nuland said.