WASHINGTON - US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta Tuesday says Israel is pushing the US into ‘a corner’ by demanding that Washington draw red lines before Iran over its nuclear energy program.

The presidents of the US and the prime ministers of Israel “don’t have, you know, a bunch of little red lines that determine their decisions,” Panetta told Foreign Policy ’s National Security channel.

“Red lines are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner,” the American Defence chief added.

“Red lines are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner,” he said.

Cracks have appeared in the relations between the old allies with the US rejection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s open bellicosity in pressuring Washington to set ‘red lines’ on Iran’s nuclear energy activities.

The Israeli premier has hit back at the US for the refusal, saying “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran, don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” to stop it from taking military action against the Islamic Republic unilaterally.

Opposition to the idea of red lines has not been limited to Uncle Sam. Netanyahu’s deputy for intelligence and atomic affairs Dan Meridor, a member of the core of Bibi’s security cabinet, said on last Thursday that “I don’t want to set red lines or deadlines for myself,” and called for the intensification of sanctions against Tehran.

However, the US-Israel rift seemed on Sunday to be widening with Netanyahu’s indifference to White House opposition to his stance on Iran, when he renewed his demand for US red lines for Iran’s nuclear energy program, cautioning his ally that by mid-2013 Iran would be “90 percent of the way” toward the capability to weaponise its nuclear technology.

“You have to place that red line before them now, before it’s too late,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

The disagreement added fuel to fire sparked recently when White House said Obama will not make time to meet Netanyahu during the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly next month.

Another serious bone of contention between the close allies came several weeks ago with Pentagon’s decision to scale back its participation in a joint military manoeuvre with the Israeli regime in September.