Likud’s Barkat: Tehran should be targeted if Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel

Opposition MK claims some in Iran’s leadership more interested in destroying Israel than their own survival, says rockets from Lebanon must be met with IDF response against Tehran

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Likud MK Nir Barkat addresses the Israeli American Council's national summit on December 9, 2021. (Noam Galai)
Likud MK Nir Barkat addresses the Israeli American Council's national summit on December 9, 2021. (Noam Galai)

HOLLYWOOD BEACH, Florida — Likud MK Nir Barkat said Saturday that if the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group fires at Israel from Lebanon, Israel should respond by targeting Tehran.

In an interview with The Times of Israel on the sidelines of the Israeli American Council’s national summit in Florida, Barkat said that retaliatory fire on Lebanon — as Israel has done in the past — would not be sufficient on its own.

“Since Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran, we need to change the equation and say openly that if they fire rockets on Israel, it won’t lead to a Third Lebanon War, but rather a First Iran War; and our target must be Tehran,” he said.

Asked whether the same logic should be applied to rocket fire from Gaza, given that the enclave-ruling Hamas also receives funding from Iran, Barkat accepted the precept in principle but said he was more focused on Hezbollah and its stockpile of rockets.

“In order to prevent a Third Lebanon War, we need to prepare for the First Iran War,” reiterated the senior lawmaker in the Likud opposition party, saying his stance on Iran is more “aggressive” than that of the coalition.

While both Barkat and the current government oppose a return to the Iran nuclear deal, the Likud MK says Israel’s leadership must also be more assertive in combating Iran through conventional warfare.

Prior to arriving in Florida for the IAC confab, Barkat spent several days in Washington where, he said, he worked to explain his position to members of Congress.

Barkat asserted that Israel should be warning the Iranians that if they attack the Jewish state — be it from Tehran or Beirut — “we’re going to take them ten years backward, we’re going to hit them in civilian areas that’ll be the most painful for them. We’ll damage them economically — their oil, their electricity, their infrastructure.” Targeting civilian sites could leave Israel open to accusations of war crimes.

Asked whether such an intense strike would draw an Iranian response against Israel, Barkat was unfazed.

“War is war,” he said.

Barkat went further in a separate interview this weekend, confirming the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal in order to threaten Iran.

“The strategy is that we will not be first in our region to use nuclear warfare, but we will not be second,” he told The New York Post cryptically. “We intend to stay alive. We don’t intend to fall into the trap of our enemies and I don’t recommend our enemies to test us.”

The Likud MK, who says he will run for the party’s leadership once longtime chairman Benjamin Netanyahu steps down, argued that Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and parts of the country’s leadership are more interested in “going down in the history books as the ones who destroyed the Jewish state” than they are in their own survival.

“Radical Islam’s goal is to hurt Israel as much as possible. I believe them and what they say,” he said, while acknowledging that the message is difficult to explain to Western audiences.

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