Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (bottom right), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (next to Ya'alon) and the IDF General Staff in the Kirya in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Israel has a right to use its military to defend itself against regional threats, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday as he continued his diplomatic battle to stop Russian-made arms from flowing into the hands of Israel’s enemies.
“The meaning of independence, in my view, is, first of all, the ability to defend yourself,” Netanyahu before he met with the IDF General Staff.
“To the growing threats around us we have a response, which is found in this room. I rely on you, chief-of-staff, and I rely on the IDF. The people of Israel rely on you.”
Publicly, Netanyahu has linked that threat to Iran, highlighting the dangers posed by the proposed deal to curb its nuclear program, currently under negotiation between Tehran and six world powers. But the Defense News website said Sunday that such threats by Netanyahu could also be aimed at Russian military equipment transferred by Syria or Iran to Hezbollah.
Netanyahu warned Russian President Vladimir Putin about this possibly when the two spoke by telephone last week, according to the website. In the conversation, the prime minister urged Putin to rescind the decision to lift a five-year ban on the sale of the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran.
The S-300 could help Iran defend itself against any military strike on its nuclear facilities.
But according to Defense News, Netanyahu also spoke with Putin regarding Israel’s “red lines” on the possible transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah. It quoted an April 14 interview with an Israeli official who said: “Our red line policy is clear. We view unauthorized third-party transfers of Russian-origin equipment as legitimate targets.”
Israel has long been concerned about the flow of Russian arms to its enemies. But its anxiety has been heightened by the Iran deal, which Israel warns would allow Tehran to increase its supply of conventional weapons. This is in addition to Israel’s unease that the deal would also give Iran the ability to continue to develop its nuclear weapons program, leaving it with a zero break-out time within a decade.
The International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday said Iran had continued to meet its commitments under an interim nuclear agreement with the six world powers, according to a confidential report seen by Reuters.
The monthly update by the IAEA said Iran was not enriching uranium above a fissile concentration of five percent. It also said Iran had not made “any further advances” in its activities at two enrichment facilities and with a heavy water reactor under construction.
Under the November 2013 accord between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain, the Islamic Republic halted its most sensitive nuclear activity and took other steps in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.
The pact was negotiated to buy time for talks on a final agreement over the nature of a nuclear program that Iran says is peaceful, but which the West fears could be aimed at developing the capability to produce weapons.
After reaching a framework agreement in marathon talks in Switzerland earlier this month, the parties are trying to nail down the details of a final settlement by the end of June.
The next round of talks starts this week in Vienna. US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and European Union political director Helga Schmid will conduct those talks.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told military commanders on Sunday that the US had created the “myth” of nuclear weapons to portray Iran as a threat, thus hardening his rhetoric before the negotiations resume.Reuters contributed to this report.
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