Netanyahu Warns Iran: Threatening Israel Puts Tehran 'In Grave Danger'

Netanyahu asks Kazakh President Nazarbayev to convey the message to Rohani, in the latest escalation of rhetoric against Iran since the election of Donald Trump. 'Israel isn't a rabbit, it's a tiger,' he says.

Netanyahu meets with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, December 14, 2016.
Haim Zach / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev Wednesday to convey a message to his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani that Tehran is "putting itself in grave danger" by continuing to threaten Israel with annihilation. Netanyahu's message to Rohani is the latest in a gradual escalation of the premier's rhetoric vis-à-vis Iran since the election of Donald Trump.

Haaretz learned of the message from a senior official who asked to remain anonymous and who is acquainted with the details of the two leader's meeting in Astana.

During the Netanyahu-Nazarbayev meeting, the latter said that Rohani is scheduled to visit Kazakhstan soon. He asked if Netanyahu would like to convey a message to him. The senior official said that Netanyahu answered in the affirmative, and asked the Kazakhstani president to ask Rohani why Iran continues to threaten Israel with annihilation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, December 14, 2016.
Haim Zach / GPO

"Israel isn't a rabbit, it's a tiger," Netanyahu told Nazarbayev, according to the official. "Israel isn't a small helpless country. The Iranians don't know who they are dealing with, and Iran is putting itself in grave danger."

The senior official said that Netanyahu also asked Nazarbayev to make clear to Rohani that if Iran changes its attitude toward Israel, Israel will change its attitude toward Iran as well.

In recent weeks, since the U.S. elections were held, Netanyahu has resumed commenting on the Iranian nuclear program, a topic he had not mentioned publicly in a while.

In remarks to the Saban Forum on December 4, Netanyahu said he hoped to speak to President-elect Trump about “the bad deal with Iran.” He added that Iran has grown more aggressive in the Middle East ever since the deal was signed in July 2015.  

When asked about the possibility of a military strike against Iran, Netanyahu said: “I mean it when I say we are committed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Two days afterwards, Netanyahu alluded to the Iranian issue during an annual memorial for late prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

“Our military mightmust be capable of threatening annihilation against those who threaten to annihilate us,”  Netanyahu said, hinting at Iran’s nuclear program.

On December 11, CBS broadcast a lengthy interview with Netanyahu on its “60-Minutes” program. Netanyahu said there that he would propose to Trump ways to cancel the Iranian nuclear deal. “There are various ways of undoing it,” Netanyahu said.

"I think what options we have are much more than you think. Many more. .. I have about five things in my mind. I’d like to talk to the president (about it)," Netanyahu said. 

On Monday, Netanyahu continued with the messages about Iran during the reception ceremony for the first F-35 fighter planes at the air base in Nevatim.

“I want to say in the clearest way: Whoever thinks of attacking us, will be attacked,” Netanyahu said. “Whoever considers destroying us puts himself in existential danger. This is an essential condition for ensuring our future.”