HERZLIYA, Israel — Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday morning: “We will not allow Iran to transform Syria into forward base against Israel.”
Liberman was speaking at the annual foreign policy conference at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, which brings together national security experts from Israel, the United States, and beyond. He was speaking publicly for the first time after Iran reportedly launched 20 projectiles at the Israeli-held Golan Heights in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Israel responded with attacks on the missile sites and other targets in Syria, hitting almost all of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria, according to Liberman. None of the Iranian missiles hit targets in Israel: those that were not destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system failed to reach Israeli territory.
The Iranian attack was an apparent response to Israeli strikes against Iranian bases in Syria last week. They also came just two days after the U.S. announced that it was pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, and a few days before the U.S. transfers its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though the attack does not appear directly related to the latter two events.
Liberman warned that Israel’s response to Iranian attacks would not be restrained. “If we get rain, they will get a flood,” he warned.
He explained that Iran was clearly an aggressor in the region and throughout the world, moving beyond extremist ideology to extremist actions. He noted the large amounts of money Iran was spending on its military adventurism abroad, and said that the people who were suffering most were those in Iran whose resources were being wasted.
He added that Israel had no grievance against the Iranian people, mentioning specifically the potential of the younger generation. He expressed hope that Iran might one day enjoy different relations with the other countries in the region.
Israel would not, he said, intervene in the Syrian civil war, and the only purpose of any attack into Syrian territory would be to protect its own citizens. He looked forward to the day when Iran would no longer seek Israel’s destruction.
Though he was not optimistic about the prospects of regional peace, Liberman said that Israel had done everything possible for peace — withdrawing from the Sinai; giving the Palestinians autonomy in Judea and Samaria; and pulling completely out of Gaza. The only thing Israel had not yet done, he joked, was “to switch our neighbors.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.