As Iran made clear it will continue supporting proxies waging war against Israel, and Iran said Russia would soon provide it state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the North on Tuesday and pledged Israel would strike hard at those who try to harm it.
“The IDF is strong, the State of Israel is strong,” he said during a tour of the IDF’s Northern Command headquarters in Safed. “We are ready for any eventuality.
We will hit out at those who try to harm us.”
Netanyahu, accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, said he came to the northern border to see first-hand the army’s preparedness for the threats coming from the North, which he laid squarely at Iran’s doorstep.
“The leader of Iran, [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, said yesterday, and I quote, ‘We will use all means to support all those who fight Israel,’” Netanyahu said.
“Iranian Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif said a few days ago in Beirut, after meeting the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, that the nuclear deal has provided an historic opportunity to stand against the Zionist entity.”
These comments, the prime minister said, bear out as “correct and true” what Israel has been saying all along: “The money that will flow to Iran in the wake of the nuclear agreement will serve it to strengthen the terrorist organizations operating against us, in its name and under its auspices, in the avowed goal to destroy Israel.”
Netanyahu has argued continuously over recent weeks that a significant part of the billions of dollars Iran will enjoy from sanctions relief as part of the nuclear deal will go to bolster Iran’s terrorist proxies on Israel’s borders, enhancing the Islamic Republic’s offensive capabilities against the Jewish state.
And even as these offensive capabilities will be built up, Iran’s defense minister said in Tehran that his country will sign a contract with Russia next week to buy four S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems.
Russian state arms producer Almaz-Antey in June said it would supply Iran with a modernized version of the S-300, among the world’s most capable air defense systems, once a commercial agreement was reached.
“The text of the contract is ready and our friends will go to Russia next week to sign the contract,” Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
Russia says it canceled a contract to deliver S-300s to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West. But President Vladimir Putin lifted that self-imposed ban in April following the interim nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Tuesday’s announcement came a day after Zarif visited Moscow to discuss the civil war in Syria.
Netanyahu has adamantly opposed the S-300 sale, with the matter coming up regularly in conversations between him and Putin.
They last spoke by phone at the end of July.
One Israeli official, who said he could not confirm the deal, said that Israel views the possible delivery of the weapons systems to Iran as a “very problematic development.”
The S-300, first deployed at the height of the Cold War in 1979 and improved several times since, can engage multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 300 km away.
The Russians justify the sale by saying it is a purely defensive weapon. They have also refrained from delivering it to Syria, largely because of Israel’s concerns that, if positioned on Israel’s northern border, the anti-aircraft system could effectively impose a no-fly zone over the country, being able to hit planes going into and out of Ben-Gurion Airport.Reuters contributed to this report.