Netanyahu and Zarif.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “not impressed” with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s comments on an interview with CBS News on Sunday, saying there is a “huge gap” between Zarif’s supposedly moderate words and Iran’s real actions.
“I heard today from the foreign minister of a country that sends armed drones against Israel and missiles against Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu said during a toast in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday. “I also heard his moderate words, and there is a huge gap between the words and the actions of the Revolutionary Guards, who are advancing an army against Israel with the declared goal of destroying the State of Israel.”
Iran considers Israel’s recent operations in Syria a “violation of international law,” but Zarif does not believe the Islamic Republic and the Jewish State are headed toward regional war, he said Sunday.
“Israel has continued its violations with international law, hoping to be able to do it with impunity because of the US support and trying to find smokescreens to hide behind,” Zarif said. “And I do not believe that the smokescreens work anymore.”
Zarif appeared to make an attempt to mitigate an escalation of hostilities between the two countries after Israel downed an Iranian drone
in February and struck at least one Iranian military base in Syria since. The drone incident marked the most serious confrontation yet in Syria between Israel and Iran, which has entrenched itself in the country while fighting to support President Bashar Assad.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described the strike in Syria as “Israel’s crime” and said it would “not remain without response” a day after it occurred.
When asked about Israel’s numerous strikes on Iranian bases in Syria, Zarif spun the question into one about Israeli-Syrian relations, avoiding any mention of Iran.
“They have in fact escalated tension by violating Syrian airspace, by violating Syrian territory on a routine basis,” he said.
Though not as sharp as recent statements by other Iranian officials, one of whom threatened to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa earlier this month, Zarif warned Israel of striking Iranian bases again.
“They should expect that if they continue to violate territorial integrity of other states, there’ll be consequences,” he said. “The easiest answer would be to stop - to stop these acts of aggression, to stop these incursions.”
Zarif dodged questions about Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria, accusing the United States of hypocrisy for its support of Saudi Arabia in its fight against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.