Netanyahu: I Told Putin Israel Has Right to Defend Itself in Face of Iranian Aggression

In Moscow, Netanyahu says Israel-Russia military coordination must be ensured in light of Syria events ■ Netanyahu attended a parade and wreath-laying ceremony at the Red Square

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP)
Sergei Ilnitsky/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning highlighted the importance of "continued coordination" between the Israeli and Russian military against the backdrop of current events in Syria.

After the meeting, Netanyahu said that he presented to Putin "Israel's obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression, from Syrian territory. 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 the State of Israel."

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Previous speculation that Moscow, which is trying to stabilise Syria, would block Israeli cross-border strikes had proven false "and I have no basis to think that this time will be different," Netanyahu told reporters in a phone briefing.

Entering their meeting, Netanyahu thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for "the chance of discussing regional issues and the attempts to solve crises and remove threats in a responsible manner."

Upon his departure for Moscow, Netanyahu told reporters that his upcoming meeting with Putin is especially important. "In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination between the Russian military and the IDF," Netanyahu said.

"I think that matters were presented in a direct and forthright manner, and this is important," Netanyahu said. "These matters are very important to Israel's security at all times and especially at this time."

'Defense against Iranian aggression'

After meeting with Putin, Netanyahu said he had just finished almost 10 hours with the Russian president and the events were very impressive, including the Victory Day parade commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany 73 years ago.

In addition, the meetings with Putin were valuable and beneficial, and Netanyahu said he presented the Israeli viewpoint to Putin on matters such as concerning the Iranian secret nuclear archive and of course the present tensions.  

Israel has the obligation and the right to defend itself from Iranian aggression from Syrian territory, said Netanyahu. The Iranians have declared they intend on attacking Israel and are trying to move troops and lethal weapons there with the explicit goal of attacking Israel, as part of their strategy to destroy the State of Israel, he told Putin.

Netanyahu said he told Putin, directly and honestly that every country has the right, including Israel, to take the necessary steps to defend itself from such aggression.   

'The Nazi monster'

"It is difficult for me to describe to you the depth of my impression from that moving ceremony to mark the victory over Nazism," Netanyahu told Putin at the beginning of the meeting between the two in the Kremlin after they attended the parade commemorating victory over Nazi Germany 73 years ago.

"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," said Netanyahu.

"Sitting next to me, between us, was a veteran who was among the liberators of Auschwitz. We will never forget the meaning of your sacrifice, of those soldiers, along with the half a million Jewish soldiers in the Red Army, in ensuring the fate of Russia, of humanity and of our people, the Jewish people," he told Putin.

"Neither 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," added Netanyahu.

The prime minister's trip comes hours after Syria said Israel carried out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israel. 

The Israeli military said it identified what it said was unusual movements of Iranian forces in Syria, and it believed those forces were preparing for an imminent retaliation against Israel. 

The reports came on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump's dramatic withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

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Israel believes Iran is determined to take revenge for the April 9 airstrike on Syria’s T4 airbase, which killed seven Iranian military advisers and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran blames Israel for this attack.

The military said any Iranian strike against Israel will be met with a severe response, even as the working assumption is that Iran is has limited capabilities to engage in conflict with Israel.