TEL AVIV – Wielding a fragment of an Iranian drone downed in Israel last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned Tehran not to “test Israel’s resolve.”
“Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should, it’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran — do not test Israel’s resolve!” Netanyahu said at the Munich Security Conference, which was also attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Zarif later responded on the same stage, calling Netanyahu’s fiery speech a “cartoonish circus.”
The Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace early last Saturday morning and remained there for a minute and a half before being downed by a combat helicopter. In response to the infiltration, Israel launched airstrikes on 12 Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, including three air-defense batteries and four Iranian targets such as the control center that launched the drone. One of Israel’s F-16s was downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile, injuring two pilots who ejected. A second reprisal by Israel resulted in the destruction of a third to half of Syria’s air defense bases, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
“Through its proxies — Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza — Iran is devouring huge swaths of the Middle East,” Netanyahu said at the conference.
“Israel will not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” he added. “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”
The prime minister used the opportunity to express his dismay at the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, saying the deal should be scrapped altogether.
“Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. Appeasement never works,” he said.
“Concessions to Hitler only emboldened the Nazis. Well-intentioned leaders only made war more difficult and costly,” he said.
“Iran is not Nazi Germany. One championed a master race, the other champions a master faith,” said Netanyahu. “Iran looks to destroy Israel and is developing ballistic missiles that can also reach Europe and the US. Once nuclear-armed, Iran will be unchecked.”
The Iran deal has “not made them more moderate internally, it has not made them more moderate externally. It released an Iranian tiger in our region. We must speak clearly; we must act boldly. We can stop this dangerous regime,” said Netanyahu.
“I don’t care about the agreement, fixing it or nixing it. I care about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu said, calling for “the toughest, crippling sanctions” against Iran’s production of ballistic missiles.
He called Zarif the “smooth-talking mouthpiece of Iran.”
“I’ll say this, he lies eloquently,” Netanyahu said. “Zarif said it was wrong to say Iran is radical. If that’s true, why do they hang gays from cranes in city squares?”
Zarif, in response, told the audience that they had just witnessed a circus act.
“You were the audience for a cartoonish circus just this morning which does not even deserve the dignity of a response,” Zarif said.
He branded Netanyahu “obsessive” with his belief that Iran was a threat to Israel. Iran has repeatedly threatened Israel and aids anti-Israel terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. Zarif also warned against heeding Netanyahu’s prediction that Tehran would “do nothing” if the U.S. were to pull out the nuclear deal.
“I can assure that if Iran’s interests are not secured, Iran will respond, will respond seriously and I believe it would be a response that means people would be sorry for taking the erroneous action they did,” said Zarif of scrapping the deal, adding that “we will not be the first ones to violate” the agreement.
He condemned Israel’s “almost daily illegal incursions into Syrian airspace,” and said the Jewish state was trying “to create these cartoonish images to blame others for its own strategic blunders, or maybe to evade the domestic crisis they’re facing.”
“What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled,” said Zarif of the downed F-16.