Israel Not Buying Panetta's Push for Iran Sanctions

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ASHKELON, Southern Israel -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Israel's top brass in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, to talk strategy on dealing with the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Panetta arrived in Israel with reassurance that the United States wouldn't allow the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear weapon.

He maintained that sanctions must be exhausted before taking military action. But should Iran continue to try and produce a weapon, Panetta pointed out that the United States has options it's prepared to implement to ensure that that does not happen.

Panetta made his comments during a tour of an Iron Dome battery in southern Israel. The United States helped pay for the anti-missile system, which has been extremely effective in shooting down rockets and missiles launched against Israeli civilians.

According to reports, persuading Israel to give Iranian sanctions more time was a major part of Panetta's mission.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel doesn't buy that argument.

"To tell you the truth we in Israel don't see the probability that it will lead the Ayatollahs to gather around the table, look at each other eyes, and tell each other that 'That's it, the game is over. We have to give up our nuclear military program,'" Barak said. "The probability of this happening is very, extremely low."

Barak also noted that the Iranians are enriching uranium daily and gaining ground.

"We really have something to lose by this stretched time upon which sanctions and diplomacy takes place because the Iranians are moving forward not just in enrichment," he warned.

Barak also made it clear that Israel would have the final say when it came to decisions about its own security.

"Only the government of Israel will make the decisions about any issue that touches a very core of our security interests and our future," he said.

Panetta also met with Israel's President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appeared similarly unimpressed with Panetta's words.

"You recently said that sanctions on Iran are having a big impact on the Iranian economy, and that is correct," Netanyahu told Panetta. "But unfortunately it is also true that neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yet had any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program."

"You yourself said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act," Netanyahu added. "But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program. However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them."

Panetta's Middle East tour visit comes on the heels of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's trip to Israel.

Panetta and Barak both spoke about the close security relations between the United States and Israel. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how much support the United States will show if Israel mounts a military strike against Iran.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Correspondent

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