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Why is Israel now quiet over Iran sanctions?

After last week's call for 'crippling sanctions' against Iran, Israel has adopted an 'eloquent silence' on the issue while it waits to see how Thursday's historic nuclear talks go.

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Netanyahu called last week for 'crippling sanctions'

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during his media tour last week following the UN General Assembly meeting, called for "crippling sanctions" against Iran – quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who used the term this summer. That's not a new position for Israel and officials here have complained that the international community didn't share Israel's sense of urgency on the issue or its willingness to put teeth behind demands that Iran slow its nuclear progress. And yet, at the same time, Israeli leaders have expressed skepticism over the efficacy of sanctions and have warned that the time for them to have any effect was "running out" - a sign that Israel was moving toward the military option.

But with last week's outing of Iran's secret nuclear facility, Israel now believes there is more hope for harsh new sanctions, since the revelation supports its long-standing argument that Iran's nuclear program is not intended strictly for civilian use.

"Serious sanctions would not necessarily make Iran change its position on a nuclear program, but they can have an effect in that Iran would come into negotiations with a more serious attitude, and come in looking for a deal," Landau says.

Sanctions would most likely include a call for halting foreign investment in Iran's oil and gas industries, as well as restrictions on banking, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNN on Monday.

US also takes a wait-and-see approach

"I don't think we will get the full perspective of Iran's willingness to engage in one meeting," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in a briefing in Washington on Tuesday. "Clearly, once we are at the table, we hear from them, we see the tone, we'll know some things. And the real question is, are they willing to engage in a process?"

"That is the ultimate question on the table: Is Iran going to come to the meeting on Thursday prepared to seriously address the concerns that the international community has?" Crowley said.

Aluf Benn, a leading Israeli journalist on security affairs for the Haaretz newspaper, noted that the crisis leaves Netanyahu torn between two schools of thought in Israel, one which prefers a preventive approach, an the other, an offensive one.

"In recent months, it seems Israel's preventive strategy is paying dividends," he wrote. "[Netanyahu's] challenge in the coming months will be to withstand the burgeoning pressures to attack Iran ... while adhering to the preventive strategy. This is the most effective way, one that will give incentive to the West to rein in the Iranians without risking harm to Israel."


Will the UN Security Council slap sanctions on Iran?

Probably not, due mostly to China's aversion to sanctions. Read our piece on how China's recent multi-billion dollar oil and gas deals plays into its stance on the issue. Also, check out our story on how Iran's secret site is the missing piece in its nuclear puzzle.