Netanyahu Fires Back at Iran's FM: 'Huge Gap Between His Moderate Words and Revolutionary Guards' Actions'

Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Israel of violating international law in an interview to CBS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on April 16, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

In an interview on CBS on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attacked Israel for violating international law and accused it of doing so "with impunity" thanks to U.S. support.

In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Zarif's words were distant from the actions of his country's Revolutionary Guards, who are aiming to destroy Israel.

Zarif was asked by Margaret Brennan of "Face the Nation" whether Iran's presence in Syria and Israel's opposition to it is making the region head toward war. 

>> Revealed: Israel 'struck advanced Iranian air-defense system' in Syria >>

"I do not believe that we are headed towards regional war," the foreign minister answered, "but I do believe that unfortunately, Israel has continued its violations with international law, hoping to be able to do it with impunity because of the U.S. support and trying to find smokescreens to hide behind. And I do not believe that the smokescreens work anymore."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Zarif's comments at a toast with the Israel Defense Forces general staff and army chief Gadi Eisenkot.

"This is the foreign minister of a country that dispatches armed drones against Israel and missiles against Saudi Arabia," said Netanyahu. "I also heard his moderate words, and there is an enormous gulf between the words and the actions of the Revolutionary Guards, who are building up an army against Israel with the declared aim of destroying the State of Israel."

"I am not impressed by the words," the prime minister concluded. |I trust this forum and the IDF to be prepared for any possibility and any scenario. I raise a toast to the State of Israel and the IDF.”

Tensions between the two countries have been running high since the Israel Air Force shot down an Iranian drone in Israeli territory in February. Israel retaliated with strikes in Syria, during which an Israeli F-16 war plane was downed.

A week and a half ago, IDF officials said that the drone was armed with explosives and was on its way to carry out an attack in Israel. The aircraft was operated by the Iranian air force from a command center at Syria's T4 air base near Homs, which was attacked last week. The strike was widely attributed to Israel.

A senior Israeli military official admitted to The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that Israel targeted the Iranian drone command center at T4. “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” said the Israeli military official.