(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Amid reports that the Israeli air force struck an Iranian base in Syria overnight Tuesday, security cabinet member Naftali Bennett said he's advancing a strategy in which Israel will confront Iran directly rather than just going after its proxies.
"Iran is behind the anti-Israel activity in Syria and Lebanon," Bennett said in an interview to Israeli Radio 103 on Wednesday. "It is an octopus that sends out tentacles and expects us to act against its proxies, while it sits safely in its place. I am promoting a policy that calls for focusing our efforts against Iran itself."
"[Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei is willing to fight Israel until the last drop of Syrian, Lebanese and Gazan blood, but does not send his own troops. For 30 years we have been sending our soldiers to fight Iran, while they sit in safety. It is illogical," Bennett said.
When asked by the show's veteran host Nissim Mishal whether an attack on Iran was imminent, Bennett responded enigmatically.
"The force behind everything is Iran and we must pinpoint the laser on it. I am putting forward a strategic line and saying that we will not be handling things with surgical precision, we view neighborhoods that have rockets as legitimate targets."
Bennett also called out past Israeli governments for allowing Hezbollah to arm itself with hundreds of thousands of rockets that could be used against Israel in future conflicts.
"In Lebanon there are more than 100,000 imprecise rockets. If they were accurate, they would constitute a significant threat to Israel, something we will not allow to happen at any cost. Between the years 2006-2012 Israel allowed Hezbollah to arm itself with 130,000 rockets. It was a strategic failure. Now they are seeking to make all those rockets precise and we will not allow that to happen," Bennett said.
That said, Bennett suggested that he didn't see a direct conflict around the corner. "In order to prevent a war in the north, we must move our enemy away from the border. That is the correct policy."
Tuesday night's alleged attack in Syrian territory was the second in a month. On January 9, Damascus accused Israel of launching missiles targeting military outposts in the area of Qutayfah, in the Damascus countryside.
According to the report, Israeli jets flying inside Lebanese airspace fired several missiles towards the al-Qutayfah area at around 2:40 in the morning, causing damage near the military site. A statement released by Syria’s General Command said several missiles were intercepted by the regime’s air defenses, which also hit one of the Israeli planes.
Israel was also reported to have fired two surface-to-surface missiles from the Golan Heights at around 3:04 a.m., and another four missiles from around the area of Tiberias. The Syrian army statement claimed all missiles were intercepted but some damage was caused as a result of the interception.
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red lines for the Jewish State.
Israel’s Security Cabinet went to the Mt. Avital outlook on the Golan Heights Tuesday and received a briefing from Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick and other senior officers.
Following the briefings, Netanyahu said that while Israel wants peace, it is “prepared for any scenario, and I suggest that no one test us.”Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.