Netanyahu says strength is Israel's 'only guarantee'

AFP, Sunday 5 Feb 2012

Responding to statements by Iran's supreme leader, Netanyahu states plans to build up military and economy to secure Israel's existence

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 22, 2012. (Photo:Reuters)

israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that economic and military might are Israel's only guarantee for peace and security following the latest developments in Iran and Syria.

"In the past few days we received a reminder of what kind of neighbourhood we live in," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

"In such a region the only thing ensuring [our] existence, security and prosperity is strength.

"We shall continue to build the military, economic and social strength of Israel; that is the only guarantee for peace and also Israel's only defence if peace collapses," said the Israeli premier.

"We heard the comments of the ruler of Iran on the destruction of Israel, we saw the Syrian army massacring its own people, we saw other incidents of bloodshed," he added.

Netanyahu was referring to a speech on Friday by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and to the reported mass killing of civilians by Syrian troops.

In his televised address, Khamenei described "the Zionist regime" as "a cancerous tumour that must be cut out, and God willing it will be."

"From now on we will support any group that will fight the Zionist regime," said the all-powerful Iranian leader.

Khamenei's comments came amid heightened speculation that Israel – believed to have the Middle East's only, albeit undeclared, nuclear arsenal – was mulling air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Syria, which shares a land border with Israel, saw one its bloodiest weekends since an uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad's regime erupted, with activists reporting more than 200 civilians were killed during an assault by regime forces on the protest city of Homs.

"In our region, various rulers have no moral impediments to killing their neighbours or their own people," Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Israel, which joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2010, has been enjoying above average economic growth in the club of developed nations.

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