Netanyahu: Many in Middle East, Not Just Israel, Appreciate Trump's Leadership on Iran

At International Air Force conference, Netanyahu praises Trump and the Israeli air force while reiterating his demands on Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 6, 2018.
Emil salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel is not the only voice in the Middle East that appreciates U.S. President Donald Trump's strong leadership regarding Iran.

"I can say with confidence that many in the Middle East agree with my assessment of the situation in Iran, and that Israel does not stand alone," Netanyahu said at the International Air Force commander's conference in Tel Nof.

"Israel very much appreciates the strong leadership of President Trump," he said, and expressed support for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's list of 12 demands meant to curb Iranian aggression in the event a new nuclear deal is signed with Tehran. 

Netanyahu stressed that he hopes Washington's message was heard loud and clear in Tehran. "We are determined to curb Iranian aggression," he said. "We cannot allow Iran to open military bases in Syria, and we cannot allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons."

Netanyahu reiterated that Israel is against the Iranian regime and its actions, not against the Iranian people. 

He also praised the Israeli air force's role in the ongoing conflict with Iran. "The Israeli air force plays a crucial role in implementing this policy, and has done so consistently and efficiently in recent years," the statement concluded.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also spoke at the conference, where he answered questions about Iran and the Palestinians. 

Lieberman said Israel has no desire to escalate tensions in Syria, but will not stop an attack if Iran begins to consolidate there. "If we see any attempts at this consolidation going forward, we will strike again. I think our stance is clear and consistent, as are our actions," he said.

When asked if Israel has any plans in the event of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' death, he replied "I don't know about his death, but in the end of the day it's a Palestinian matter, it's their responsibility."   

The conference comes two weeks after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran. Many European countries advised against this, and some are in talks with Tehran to retain some aspects of the deal. Netanyahu, meanwhile, supported pulling out of the deal, and revealed a cache of stolen documents on Iran's nuclear program a week before Trump announced his decision. 

Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most Western sanctions. One of the main complaints of the Trump administration was that the accord did not cover Iran's missile program or its support for armed groups in the Middle East, which the West considers terrorists. 

After Trump pulled out of the deal, the Syrian army said "enemy" rockets struck military bases belonging to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. An official from a regional alliance including Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, said Monday that the strikes killed 16 people, among them 11 Iranians. The strikes were later confirmed by Israel, and a senior IAF commander said the attack was the first time F-35 stealth fighters were put to use.