Hinting publicly for the first time at unease with the Trump administration’s hesitancy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said Iran was emboldened by the lack of a response to a series of attacks in the Middle East attributed to the Islamic Republic.
Speaking at a ceremony for graduates of the Israel Defense Forces’ officers course, Netanyahu warned of growing threats from Iran and its regional proxies, who he said are working to build up their arsenals.
“The area around us is turbulent and stormy. The threats are popping up in every corner — in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and also in Iraq, in Yemen and directly in Iran. Iranian and pro-Iranian forces are working nonstop to arm themselves,” he said.
Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, said Israel would respond harshly to any attempt to harm it, suggesting that other countries’ failure to do likewise was encouraging Iran.
“We’re prepared for the threats and we won’t hesitate to land a tough blow on whoever tries to harm us. Iran’s brazenness in the region is increasing and even getting stronger in light of the absence of a response,” he said.
“But Israel won’t turn the other cheek,” Netanyau added. “Whoever is bent on aggression… will pay a heavy price.”
Netanyahu did not specify whose lack of response was emboldening Iran, but his comments came after a series of attacks in the Persian Gulf on US assets and American allies.
In June, US President Donald Trump called off a retaliatory strike after Iran downed an American drone that Tehran said entered its airspace. The US, which denied the drone entered Iranian skies, was later reported to have launched a cyberattack on Iran.
Last month, around half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production capacity was knocked offline due to an attack claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. There was no response to that attack, which the US, Israel and others also blamed on Iran.
Netanyahu, who has developed close ties with Trump, has not publicly commented on the lack of a US or Saudi response but has emphasized of late that Israel can defend itself.
Israel is now bracing for a similar assault to the one on Saudi Arabia, which involved armed drones and cruise missiles, with Hebrew media reporting earlier this month that the defense establishment was analyzing the strike on the Saudi oil facilities.
The chief of the Israeli Air Force said Wednesday the military’s multi-tiered network of air defense systems was “on alert” amid a general threat of attack by Iran.
In recent weeks, the military has begun to believe that Tehran intends to eventually retaliate against Israel’s regular airstrikes against its forces and proxies in the region.
Israel has vowed to prevent Iran’s regional proxy militias from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish state and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria that it says were to prevent delivery of weapons and to stop Iranian military entrenchment in the country.