Israel’s enemies threatening it with destruction should know that they cannot destroy the country and are instead placing themselves in great danger, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.
Netanyahu’s comments, made during a ceremony at Latrun marking 70 years of the establishment of the IDF, come amid rising tensions with Iran and intelligence reports that Tehran is planning a missile strike against an Israeli military installation.
Though the premier did not directly mention Iran, he said that anyone who strikes Israel should know that Israel will strike them back. He said those threatening to destroy Israel will encounter an “iron wall” which they will not be able to penetrate.
And, he added, “our struggle is waged while maintaining a purity of arms, and in a continuous attempt to prevent, as much as possible, harming innocent civilians. There is no more ethical army than the IDF.”
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that he plans to reveal his decision whether to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Tuesday, scheduled for 2 p.m. local time. The president had given European powers until May 12 to come up with “fixes” to the deal’s most controversial provisions. That’s the date by which he is required to inform Congress whether he will waive nuclear sanctions on Iran lifted by the landmark accord.
In a related development, Netanyahu’s former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said that Jerusalem’s revelation a day earlier of Iranian plans to fire missiles at Israel from Syria was a signal to Tehran that Israel knows of these plans and will hold it responsible for its actions.
Amidror, speaking on a conference call sponsored by The Israel Project, said that it was important to reveal Iran’s intentions beforehand, in order to rob the Iranians of deniability.
He added that Iran is trying to create a “war machine,” in Syria, and is also employing the “Yemenite model in which they launch the rockets and missiles and stay behind others’ names.”
For instance, he said, the Houthis in Yemen, who are Iranian proxies, will fire rockets at Riyadh – and then Iran will say, “What do you want from us, it is the Houthis.”
“The Iranians cannot stay behind foreign names and pretend it is not them,” Amidror said. “It is clear that if Israel is attacked by any missiles, we know – and they know that we know – that this is the Iranians, and the consequences will be directed towards the Iranians.”
Amidror said that if the Iranians attack Israel – as they did three months ago when attempting to fly a drone with explosives into the country – “there will be consequences, such as a counterattack by Israel on Iranian interests.” The Iranians, he said, “will have to pay” if they attack Israel.
Amidror said that Israel would prefer to keep Iran from building a war machine in Syria now rather than later, when it will likely have acquired additional capabilities inside the country.
“We made a huge mistake in Lebanon,” he said. “We let Hezbollah get 120,000 rockets and missiles. We are not going to make that same mistake in Syria.”
MEANWHILE, Tehran might still abide by its commitments under a deal governing its nuclear work if the US withdraws from the agreement, assuming all other parties guarantee Iran will maintain its benefits, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani indicated on Monday.
According to state-run media, Rouhani called on Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to “guarantee” that Iran would continue to receive the economic relief promised to it under the 2015 nuclear accord, even if the US pulls out. Otherwise, Tehran has a “logical plan” for an exit from the deal, the president said.
Rouhani’s comment seemed to hedge statements from other Iranian officials in recent days that previewed a swift withdrawal by Tehran following a potential US pullout this week.
Specifically, Trump wants Britain, France and Germany to agree on a strategy that will add terms to the existing agreement restricting Iran’s ballistic missile program; wants to expand access for UN nuclear inspectors to Iranian military sites; to combat Iran’s military posture in the region; and to rid the deal of expiration dates on “caps” limiting Iran’s enrichment of fissile material.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron agreed during a visit to the White House last month to negotiate on these terms if it
means preserving the existing deal. And now Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson says UK Prime Minister Theresa May will do the same.
Johnson is visiting Washington this week in a last-ditch effort to save the deal.
“We need to be tougher on Iran, and we need to fix the flaws in the deal, one of the most important being this sunset clause,” Johnson said during an interview on Fox News.