By Yona Schnitzer/TPS
Israel’s strategy in the face of the Iranian threat is to avoid war by taking preemptive action, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said in an interview with the Ynet website Wednesday morning, following a nighttime strike in Syria that was attributed to Israel. “The Cabinet’s strategy, that the prime minister is heading, is to avoid a war. Only striking now, today, can prevent violence and war tomorrow,” Katz said. “The Iranians don’t understand any other language,” he added.
Although Katz’s statement appeared to suggest Israel may have been behind the strike on a missile depot and launchers south west of Damascus, which Syria said was carried out by Israeli jets, there has been no official confirmation from Israel. The strike followed a statement from the IDF that it had “detected irregular Iranian activity in Syria.”
Katz said Israel wanted to see the Iranians “forced to make a strategic decision” to withdraw from the country. The way to achieve that he said was through economic sanctions – which United States President Donald Trump said Tuesday night that he would restore after pulling out of the JCPOA nuclear deal with Tehran – and the threat of an American military invasion.
“The strategy is to get Iran out of Syria without crossing the threshold that would lead to war,” Katz said, “That is also why the Prime Minister is meeting with the Russian President [Vladimir Putin] today, in order to avoid such friction,” he added.
Speaking about the IDF’s announcement that residents of the Israeli Golan Heights should prepare their bomb shelters, Katz said that Israel does not face an existential threat from Iran, but rather specific capabilities that Iran possesses to attack from within Syria, which Israel is actively trying to block and prevent from growing.
“This is not a substantial threat on the State of Israel. There are certain Iranian capabilities within Syria, which we are trying to block and not allow to grow. Not to allow them to obtain more missiles and more militias, or other means which prevent us from [employing] our aerial capabilities,” Katz said.
“The main principle is to spot and prevent, and if it turns out that Iranian capabilities in Syria, which were meant to be directed to here, have been damaged – that is testament to the fact that we are acting on all levels,” he added.
*Mara Vigevani contributed to this article.