At nuclear facility, Netanyahu lobs stark warning at Iran
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At nuclear facility, Netanyahu lobs stark warning at Iran

‘Whoever threatens us with destruction puts himself in similar danger,’ PM says at ceremony renaming Dimona reactor after Shimon Peres

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony renaming the nuclear reactor in Dimona to the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center after the late Israeli statesman, on August 29, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony renaming the nuclear reactor in Dimona to the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center after the late Israeli statesman, on August 29, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In a pointed warning to Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that any country that threatens to destroy Israel risks meeting a similar fate, while vowing to continue taking action against the Islamic Republic’s military presence in Syria.

Netanyahu spoke during a ceremony at the nuclear research facility in Dimona, which was renamed after the late Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, who died in September 2016.

“Shimon aspired toward peace but he knew that true peace can be achieved only if our hands strongly grasp defensive weaponry,” Netanyahu said at the top-secret site.

Israel has never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons, instead maintaining a policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Foreign reports have put the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal in the dozens to hundreds of weapons.

Peres, who later became known for his efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians and Arab countries, played a leading role in the early development of Israel’s military industry and the nuclear facility in Dimona, which was initially portrayed to the world as a textile factory.

Shimon Peres and David Ben-Gurion visit Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona (Defense Ministry Archives)

In light of Peres’s longtime promotion of an accommodation with the Palestinians and the Arab world, Netanyahu said peace must be reached from a position of strength.

“In the Middle East, and in many parts of the world, there is a simple truth: There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive,” he said.

“The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.”

Netanyahu credited this strength for the “normalization” of Israel’s relations with “leading countries in the Arab world,” apparently referring to growing unofficial ties with nations such as Saudi Arabia.

Though saying he held out hope Israel will be able to achieve peace with its neighbors, Netanyahu noted the Jewish state continues to face threats from near and far.

“But our enemies know very well what Israel is capable of doing. They are familiar with our policy. Whoever tries to hurt us – we hurt them,” he said.

“I am not spouting slogans. I am describing a persistent, clear and determined policy… backed by appropriate deployment, equipment, preparedness and – in the hour of need – appropriate orders,” Netanyahu added.

This photo taken on September 8, 2002, shows a partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Israeli Negev desert. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Turning to Iran, the prime minister reiterated Israel’s opposition to any Iranian military presence in Syria, likening Israeli efforts to do so to his campaign for the cancellation of the 2015 international agreement meant to limit Tehran’s nuclear program.

Noting the effect of renewed sanctions on Iran’s economy following US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the accord in May, Netanyahu said Israel would continue to work through diplomatic channels “to apply pressure on the dangerous, extremist regime” in Iran.

He said the Israeli military will continue to take action against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and issued an emphatic warning against those who call for Israel’s annihilation, such as the Islamic Republic.

“Whoever threatens us with destruction puts himself in similar danger, and in any case will not achieve his goal,” Netanyahu said.

Hours later, Iranian Foreign Minister slammed Netanyahu as a “warmonger” for threatening Iran with “atomic annihilation.”

“Iran, a country without nuclear weapons, is threatened with atomic annihilation by a warmonger standing next to an actual nuclear weapons factory. Beyond shameless in the gall,” Zarif tweeted.

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