Netanyahu: Iran 'watching closely' to see if world dismantles Syrian chemical weapons

Speaking at a naval ceremony in the north, prime minister affirms comments made by US President Obama regarding Israel's ability to "defend itself with overwhelming force" against any threat.

September 11, 2013 18:42
2 minute read.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during his speech

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures . (photo credit: Reuters)


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The Russian-brokered proposal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons is an acceptable option if fully implemented, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu indicated on Wednesday in his first comments on the situation in the north.

Speaking at a naval ceremony in Haifa, Netanyahu said that dozens and sometimes hundreds of innocent people were being killed on a daily basis just across Israel’s border.

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“Some of them were murdered by chemical weapons,” he said. “That is a horrible crime, a crime against humanity. Now what needs to be ensured is that the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons will be dismantled and the world will ensure that anyone who uses weapons of mass destruction will pay a price.

“The message Syria receives will resonate very strongly in Iran,” he stressed.

Netanyahu repeated what he had said on August 25, regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons, that he was being guided by the first half of the sage Hillel’s ancient maxim: “If I am not for me, who will be?” Netanyahu said the practical translation of that adage these days is that Israel must always be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

He cited comments US President Barack Obama had made regarding Israel’s ability to “defend itself with overwhelming force” during his speech on Syria on Tuesday.

“That is correct,” Netanyahu affirmed, “and that is the foundation of our security.”

Obama, during his speech, downplayed Assad’s ability to retaliate against any US military action, saying “any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day.”

Obama added that Assad did not have any interest in an escalation that would lead to his demise. “And our ally Israel can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakable support of the United States of America,” he affirmed.

Jerusalem received that statement in a positive light, interpreting it as a sign that the US would support strong Israeli action against Assad if he responded to an American attack by striking out at Israel.

In a related development, Israeli officials would not comment on a report in Russian business daily Kommersant that Moscow intended to offer to supply Iran with five S-300 ground-to-air missile defense systems.

Russia signed a contract with Iran to supply them with the system in 2007 but cancelled the contract in 2010, after coming under intensive US and Israeli pressure not to go ahead with the sale.

According to Kommersant,the version of the weapons system to be offered would be a modified, less advanced model of the S-300.

Russia has also agreed to construct a second nuclear reactor at Bushehr, the paper said, adding that these are among the issues that Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to discuss with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday during a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan.

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