Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Munich Security Conference over the weekend with fierce words stemming from a recent confrontation between Israel and Iran.
On Feb. 10, an Iranian drone was shot down in Israeli air space, the first direct military confrontation between the nations in Israel.
In his opening remarks at the conference, which draws security and defense officials and diplomats from across Europe and the U.S., Netanyahu held up a piece of what he claims was the Iranian drone that flew into Israeli airspace and was subsequently shot down.
“Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” he said during his speech. “We will act as necessary not just against Iran’s proxies, but against Iran itself.”
Netanyahu also reiterated similar views to that of President Donald Trump on the need to dismiss or rewrite the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran, which sought to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in exchange for economic sanctions’ relief.
“It’s time to stop them now,” Netanyahu said of Iran. “They’re aggressive, they are developing ballistic missiles, they’re not inspecting, they have a free highway to massive (uranium) enrichment.”
Iran was quick to dismiss Netanyahu’s speech, saying that Israel’s reputation for “invincibility” was crumbling after one of its jets was shot down during a bombing run in boarding Syria.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called Netanyahu’s presentation “a cartoonish circus, which does not even deserve a response.”
“What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility (of Israel) has crumbled,” Zarif, who made his own speech at the conference within a few hours of Netanhayu, said.
He was referring to the downing of the Israeli F-16 fighter jet, which crashed in northern Israel after a strike on Syrian air defenses.
“Once the Syrians have the guts to down one of its planes, it’s as if a disaster has happened,” Zarif said, accusing Israel of using “aggression as a policy against its neighbors” by regularly carrying out incursions into Syria and Lebanon.
Netanyahu also outlined other concerns over the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, where he says that Islamic State militant group has lost ground. He claims Iran and its allies were gaining new territory, “trying to establish a continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen, but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.”
Israel continues to seek cooperation with Sunni Arab states that share its worries about Shi’ite Iran. For the past few months, Netanyahu has continued to positively describe unprecedented levels of behind-the-scenes cooperation.
“The fact that we have this newfound relationship with Arab countries – something that … I would not have imagined in my lifetime – this is not what they call a spin,” Netanyahu said during a question-and-answer session at the conference.
“This is real, it’s deep, it’s broad: it does not necessarily cross the threshold of a formal peace, and I doubt that would happen until we get some formal progress with the Palestinians – so the two are linked,” he added.
Israel currently has formal peace agreements with just two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan.