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Netanyahu: Israel actively thwarting ‘relentless’ Iranian attack plots

The Islamic Republic is not only attempting to attack Israel physically, but is also “trying to attack our national morale” and “undermine our unity as a people,” says the Israeli premier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Feb. 19, 2023. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Feb. 19, 2023. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Israel is ceaselessly confronting Iran’s nefarious activities, as the Islamic Republic’s attempts to attack the Jewish state are unending, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, “On the Iranian front, our efforts are unceasing for the simple reason that Iran’s acts of aggression are unceasing. Last week, Iran again attacked an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and struck at the international freedom of navigation. Yesterday, Iran attacked an American base in Syria. Iran continues to send deadly weapons that attack masses of innocent civilians far from its borders.”

BBC Persian reported on Friday that an Israeli-linked oil tanker was targeted in the Persian Gulf by Iranian forces. The attack, which according to the report took place on February 10, targeted the Liberia-flagged Campo Square, whose owner is Zodiac Maritime, a shipping company led by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

Also on Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the annual Munich Security Conference that Tehran was currently engaged in negotiations to sell dozens of countries advanced weapons ahead of the upcoming expiration of a U.N. arms embargo on the Islamic Republic.

“Iran is no longer a ‘local supplier’ serving proxies in the Middle East. It is a ‘multinational corporation,’ a global exporter of advanced weapons,” said Gallant. “From Belarus in Eastern Europe to Venezuela in South America—we have seen Iran delivering UAVs with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers. In fact, Iran is currently holding discussions to sell advanced weapons … to no less than 50 different countries.”

Gallant called on world powers to take concrete steps to prevent the proliferation of Iranian arms once the U.N. arms embargo expires on Oct. 18 in accordance with the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from which the United States withdrew in May 2018.

Netanyahu on Sunday further emphasized Jerusalem’s commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and entrenching itself militarily along Israel’s northern border.

“We are doing—and will do—everything to defend our people, and we are responding forcefully to the attacks against us,” he said.

Overnight Saturday, at least five people were killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike on a target in Damascus, Syria. The strike targeted a building in the city’s Kafr Sousa neighborhood, and damaged several structures near a heavily guarded security complex linked to Iran.

The Israel Defense Forces did not comment on the report, in accordance with Jerusalem’s long standing policy regarding specific foreign operations.

Tehran’s attacks on Israel went beyond the purely military, said Netanyahu on Sunday.

“I would like to stress something else: Iran is not only trying to attack us physically. It is trying to attack our national morale. It is trying to undermine our unity as a people,” he said.

“I heard the remarks by Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon. I heard [Hassan] Nasrallah’s remarks when he spoke about the demonstrations against the government and said with satisfaction that a civil war in Israel is approaching,” said Netanyahu. “Therefore, I say to Nasrallah: Don’t count on a civil war. It will not happen. It will not happen because we are indeed brothers. It will not happen because what Nasrallah does not understand is that we are a living democracy. In a democracy, there are differences of opinion and debates. Sometimes there is agreement and when it is necessary, there are decisions. There will be no civil war because we always remember that we have fought shoulder-to-shoulder to defend our state and build our land,” he added.

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah on Thursday referred to the rift in Israeli society over the government’s planned judicial reforms, saying in a speech broadcast live on giant television screens in Beirut that the “foolish government in Israel is pushing for two major conflicts—an internal conflict within Israel and a conflict with the Palestinians that will expand to the region.

“We are hearing discourse from the entity’s president [Isaac Herzog] and former prime ministers [Yair] Lapid, [Naftali] Bennett, [Ehud] Olmert, [Ehud] Barak and former defense ministers and a general who talk about civil war and bloodshed and that there is no solution to the challenges posed by the new government,” the Lebanese terrorist leader said.

The Netanyahu government’s judicial reform plan includes changing the way judges are selected so that the Knesset members will have majority say on the Judicial Selection Committee; passing an “override clause,” which would give legislators the power to reverse, or “override,” the Supreme Court when it strikes down laws; abolishing the legal justification of “reasonableness” by which the court can cancel Knesset decisions; and empowering ministers to hire and fire their own legal advisers.

Netanyahu has described as “baseless” claims by critics that the proposals would mark the end of the country’s democracy, and vowed to implement the plan responsibly.

“At this opportunity, I am pleased to disappoint our enemies and also reassure our friends: Israel is, and will remain, a strong, vibrant and independent democracy,” the prime minister reiterated on Sunday.

“It is precisely against the backdrop of the expectations of our enemies, expectations of destruction and bloodshed, that talk of blood in the streets must stop. The flames need to be lowered. The mood needs to be calmed,” said Netanyahu, adding: “This is the clear call that I am making from here and I expect all public leaders to say these clear words. This is what the Israeli public expects of us and it is the clear message that we need to send to our enemies.”

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