Israel will not be limited in its military operations in the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday at the end of a day during which he spent some 10 hours in Moscow in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While a large part of that time was spent with Putin reviewing a military parade commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany, a number of hours were also spent in meetings – first a private one and then a meeting with larger delegations from both sides.
In a briefing with reporters before flying back to Israel, Netanyahu said the main focus of the discussion was not President Donald Trump’s dramatic announcement on Tuesday that the US will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, but rather the tension in the North as a result of Iran’s moves inside Syria.
“I wanted to clarify to the Russians what our considerations were in the various operations [in Syria],” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister did not detail Putin’s response, nor whether they discussed the issue of Russia’s supply of advanced antiaircraft systems to Syria. He did say, however, there was no reason to think that Russia would limit Israel’s freedom of action.
Netanyahu also said he discussed with the Russian leader the Iranian nuclear archive that Israel revealed last week. A Russian intelligence team, he said, will be coming to Israel in the coming days to go over the trove of documents that Israel spirited out of Iran.
“I presented Israel’s obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression from Syrian territory,” Netanyahu said after meeting with Putin. “The Iranians declare their intention to attack us. They are trying to transfer forces and deadly weapons there with the explicit goal of attacking the State of Israel as part of their strategy to destroy it.”
Netanyahu said every state, and certainly Israel, has the right to take the necessary steps to protect itself from aggression.
“These things were presented in a direct and forthright manner, and this is important,” he said. “These matters are very important to Israel’s security at all times and especially at this time.”
AT THE start of the meeting with Putin, Netanyahu – who began the day by standing alongside the Russian president at the massive military parade on Moscow’s Red Square commemorating the anniversary of the victory over the Third Reich – drew comparisons between the Nazis and the current Iranian regime.
“It is difficult for me to describe to you the depth of my impression from that moving ceremony to mark the victory over Nazism,” he said. “We in Israel do not forget for a moment the great sacrifice of the Russian people and the Red Army in the victory over the Nazi monster.”
Neither, Netanyahu continued, speaking in Hebrew, “do we forget the great lesson of the need to stand against a murderous ideology in time. It is unbelievable, but 73 years after the Holocaust, there is a country in the Middle East, Iran, that is calling for the destruction of anther six million Jews.”
The difference, he continued, “is that today we have a state.”
Netanyahu said he appreciated the opportunity to discuss regional problems with Putin and the attempts, as Putin called them, “to resolve the crises, to lift the threats in a prudent and responsible manner.”
Following the V-E Day parade, which was also attend by Serbian President Aleksandar Vujcic, the three men attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in memory of the Red Army fighters who fell in World War II whose burial place is unknown. An honor guard was present and the countries’ anthems were played.
At the parade, Netanyahu saw state-of-the art Russian weaponry, some of which – ironically – it has deployed in Syria to bolster President Bashar Assad and which could challenge Israel’s air supremacy there.
For instance, among the systems on display were the S-400 air-defense missile system that Moscow has deployed in Syria to protect its forces. Also on display were Yars mobile intercontinental nuclear-missile launchers, Iskander-M ballistic-missile launchers and Kinjal (Dagger) hypersonic missiles, touted by the Russians as “unbeatable” and able to hit targets 2,000 kilometers away with nuclear or conventional warheads.
Putin looked on as thousands of troops marched past him and columns of tanks rumbled across the famous square in an annual show of military might reminiscent of those displayed during the Cold War.
Putin reviewed the parade from a tribune packed with Soviet war veterans, some of whom wore rows of campaign medals and clutched red roses.
“We remember the tragedies of the two world wars, about the lessons of history which do not allow us to become blind,” he said. “The same old ugly traits are appearing along with new threats: egoism, intolerance, aggressive nationalism and claims to exceptionalism.”Reuters contributed to this report.