Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel would not rule out undertaking military action inside Iran.
Addressing a gathering of foreign media yesterday, Netanyahu was asked what his “red line” would be for attacking Iranian territory, rather than Iranian proxies alleged to be operating in Syria and Lebanon, the Times of Israel reported. Netanyahu replied:
Our red line is our survival. I’m not ruling out doing anything that we need to do to defend ourselves – we do what is necessary to protect the state of Israel against the Iranian regime, which openly calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state.
“For the moment, Israel is the only military in the world that is directly engaging Iranian forces,” Netanyahu continued, referring to Israel’s repeated use of air strikes against what it claims are Iranian positions in Syria. Despite officially declaring a non-intervention policy in the now seven-year-old Syrian civil war, Israel has continually struck targets on Syrian soil, with some strikes allegedly undertaken at the behest of the US. Israel is also known to have armed and funded opposition groups with the aim of keeping Iranian-backed forces away from the Golan Heights, which it has occupied since the Six Day War of 1967.
Netanyahu also suggested that the continued rivalry between Israel and Iran has contributed to redrawing regional alliances, pushing Gulf states towards warmer relations with Israel. “The Arab countries understand exactly that Israel is not their enemy, but their indispensable partner,” he said, hailing a “new relationship between Israel and the Arab world”.
In recent months, this “new relationship” has culminated in a number of visits by Israeli establishment figures to Gulf states, including Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Earlier this week Netanyahu boasted that, following his meeting with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Bin Said in October, Israel had been granted permission to use Omani airspace. Although in practical terms Israel cannot take advantage of the offer in the absence of a similar agreement with Saudi Arabia – which separates the two countries – the move signifies an unprecedented level of cooperation between Muscat and Tel Aviv. Israel has also made diplomatic overtures to Bahrain, with some Israeli media outlets predicting that Bahrain will sign a peace treaty with Israel next year.
Though Israel and Iran frequently exchange threats and accusations, this posturing is largely born out only in regional rivalries and proxy conflicts. Netanyahu has been a vocal supporter of the US decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran – which were previously lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. In November Netanyahu praised the US’ move, claiming renewed sanctions would “contribute to stability, security and peace”.
“For many years I dedicated my time and energy to fighting the Iranian threat. On this issue, I went against almost the entire world. Today we see the fruit of that long and continuous battle,” he added.