JERUSALEM — Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, plans to travel to Europe before the end of the year, among other things to press for a toughening of sanctions against Tehran, Israeli officials said Tuesday. The plans appeared to be another indication of a shifting Israeli emphasis, at least for now, toward efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program by means other than military action.
Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly last week that a line must be drawn capping Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, asserting that Iran might reach an irreversible point in its drive for a nuclear weapon by next spring.
While US-led international sanctions have so far not succeeded in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu said, he added that he believed that ‘‘faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. This will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to persuade Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.’’
The Israeli leader’s speech appeared to suggest that the deadline for any military strike had been pushed off to mid-2013, well past the US presidential election, smoothing over a main point of contention between the Israelis and the Obama administration.
The growing Israeli focus on sanctions comes amid reports of the deep impact that current sanctions are having on the Iranian economy. A recent report prepared by the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that the sanctions may also be affecting the stability of the Iranian government, which insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
But since the government in Tehran hasn’t yet suspended its nuclear drive, the report concluded, another round of sanctions was needed.