Benjamin Netanyahu stubbornly ignored warnings from the White House to tone down his rhetoric on Iran, warning that Tehran would be on the brink of nuclear weapons capability in six to seven months.
Speaking yesterday, he repeated his demand for Washington to draw a "red line" over the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons ambition.
"You have to place that red line before them (Iran) now, before it's too late," he said. Earlier, Mr Netanyahu rejected as "completely groundless" the notion that he is wielding the Iranian nuclear threat as a political weapon to weaken US president Barack Obama ahead of the US elections, which has gained currency among some American commentators.
The Israeli prime minister also emphatically denied claims made by Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, that Israel's insistence on a "red line", after which the US would guarantee to attack Iranian nuclear installations, was mere "posturing".
Dismissing Mr Panetta's damning analysis of his policy, he assumed a tone of long-suffering patience with his allies and their reluctance to issue Tehran with a genuine military threat.
"I started speaking about the Iranian threat 16 years ago. If I was not a lone voice then, I was one of the few, and then others joined ... Now I speak about red lines for Iran. So far I am one of the few; I hope others will join," he said yesterday.
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard meanwhile warned that "nothing will remain" of Israel if it takes military action against Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme.
General Mohammad Ali Jafari said Iran's response to any attack will begin near the Israeli border. The Islamic Republic has close ties with militants in Gaza and Lebanon, both of which border Israel. It was the latest in a series of apocalyptic threats by Iranian leaders directed at the Jewish state.
The warning comes as battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.
Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world's petroleum traded by sea.
Yesterday the Pope made an impassioned appeal for an end to the "grim trail of death and destruction" plaguing Syria and the Middle East.
His words washed over the congregation of hundreds of thousands that attended an open-air Mass in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on the last day of his three-day visit. (© Daily Telegraph London)