Netanyahu: Syrian reactor raid shows Israel won’t let its enemies get nukes
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Netanyahu: Syrian reactor raid shows Israel won’t let its enemies get nukes

PM hails 2007 strike, doesn’t mention Tehran, but intelligence minister sends direct ‘message to Iran’: We won’t let anybody who threatens to destroy Israel get nuclear capability

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in the southern city of Dimona, March 20, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in the southern city of Dimona, March 20, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel will prevent its enemies from obtaining nuclear weapons after its military admitted it carried out a 2007 air raid against a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor.

“The Israeli government, the IDF (Israeli military), and the Mossad (intelligence agency) have prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability, and they deserve every credit for this,” Netanyahu said on Twitter.

“Israel’s policy has been and remains consistent — to prevent our enemies from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The Syrian al-Kibar nuclear reactor before, left, and after, right, it was destroyed by Israel, on September 6, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

It was Netanyahu’s first comment related to Israel’s admission early Wednesday that broke a more than 10-year official silence surrounding the raid, though it had always been widely assumed that Israel was responsible for the strike.

The admission, along with the release of newly declassified material related to the raid, comes as Israel intensifies its warnings over the presence of its main enemy Iran in neighboring Syria.

Netanyahu has also repeatedly called for a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran to be changed or eliminated.

The premier, however, did not mention Iran in his brief post.

Earlier Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the raid should serve as a message for “everyone in the Middle East.”

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz was more explicit, saying it showed Israel would never allow nuclear weapons to be obtained by “countries like Iran who threaten its existence.”

In a Hadashot TV news interview, Katz said “Israel won’t let Iran or any other state that threatens its existence attain a nuclear capability… The publication [of Israel’s confirmation regarding the Syria strike] sharpens that message.”

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Katz added: “If we reach the moment where Iran is certainly about to get nuclear weapons, the entire defense and intelligence establishment in Israel stands in favor of preventing it.” He said he hoped President Donald Trump’s demand to fix or nix the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran would resolve the Iranian threat, but warned: “The State of Israel makes clear, and I’m saying here in the clearest way, if it’s a case of a nuclear Iran or action, we will take action.”

“There is also a message to Iran,” said Katz. “The ‘Begin Doctrine,’ which was introduced regarding Iraq [when Israel bombed Saddam’s reactor at Osiraq]… says that we will not allow anybody who threatens to destroy Israel to attain nuclear weapons,” stressed Katz.

Asked if there was a fear of Syria responding now that Israel had confirmed it bombed Assad’s reactor, Katz said: “No. One should never say no, but Syria in its current state is not a state that can respond… Assad is fighting for survival, with Russian and Iranian backing. He has no interested in tussling with Israel… The lessons have been learned. Assad knows full well about Israel’s [military] advantage, and the last thing he needs is a confrontation today over something that happened 11 years ago… There is no chance that he will do it.”

Airmen from the Israeli Air Force’s 253rd Squadron embrace after bombing a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor on September 6, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

President Reuven Rivlin, in a statement, praised the political and defense officials who ordered and carried out the raid.

“Thank all of you who made the decision to strike down the nascent threat of a Syrian nuclear reactor, and those who carried out [the mission]. The people of Israel owe you a debt of honor, a debt of life,” said Rivlin at a conference in memory of former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who died in 2016.

Dagan was the head of the spy agency during the 2007 operation.

The September 2007 air raid obliterated the nuclear reactor which was located in the Deir Ezzor region of northeastern Syria.

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