TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he made it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel would operate freely in the region in order to protect itself, a veiled reference to alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria.
“I told President Putin that it is our right and indeed our duty to take any steps required to safeguard our security interests,” the prime minister told reporters before leaving Moscow after a two day visit.
Netanyahu did not expound on the ten hours of meetings he held with Putin, saying only that they were “thorough and effective.”
In an unusual move last month, Putin called for the Israeli air force to stop infiltrating Syrian airspace following an airstrike on an Iranian target attributed to Israel.
This time, however, Netanyahu said he has “no basis for thinking” that Putin would try and prevent Israel from doing what it needed to do to protect itself.
“I said that we will always maintain our right and our duty to take all actions required to defend ourselves against Iranian aggression. I think this message was transmitted in a very deep, thorough and serious manner,” he said.
Netanyahu also briefed the Russian president on Israel’s daring operation that smuggled Iran’s secret nuclear weapons files out of Tehran. Russian intelligence officials will visit Israel to analyze the material for themselves, Netanyahu said.
“I presented Israel’s obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression from Syrian territory. The Iranians declare their intention to attack us. They are trying to transfer forces and deadly weapons there with the explicit goal of attacking the State of Israel as part of their strategy to destroy the State of Israel,” he stated.
“I told President Putin that it is the right of every state, certainly it is Israel’s right, to take such steps as are necessary to defend itself against this aggression. I think that matters were presented in a direct and forthright manner, and this is important. These matters are very important to Israel’s security at all times and especially at this time,” he added.
Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow coincided with the 73rd anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazis.
“We attended very moving events – the parade marking the victory over the Nazis and other events, and of course there were also good and useful talks,” Netanyahu said.
Together with Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin @Netanyahu and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic also took part in the #ImmortalRegiment in Moscow ➡️ https://t.co/dHbHvKvMzt #VictoryDay #WeRemember #WWII pic.twitter.com/L5IYDNhFAA
— Russia🇷🇺 in Israel (@israel_mid_ru) May 9, 2018
Netanyahu also stated that he was extremely moved to be the first Israeli prime minister invited to participate in Russia’s VE Day military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.
“Sitting next to me, between us, was a veteran who was among the liberators of Auschwitz,” Netanyahu said of the parade. “We will never forget the meaning of your sacrifice, of those soldiers, along with the half a million Jewish soldiers in the Red Army, in ensuring the fate of Russia, of humanity and of our people, the Jewish people.”
The Jewish people will also never forget World War II’s lesson of the “need to stand against a murderous ideology in time,” Netanyahu said. “It is unbelievable, but 73 years after the Holocaust, there is a country in the Middle East, Iran, that is calling for the destruction of another six million Jews.”
He told Putin: “The difference is that today we have a state and I very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss regional problems with you, the attempts as you put it, to resolve the crises, to lift the threats in a prudent and responsible manner.”