Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [R] listens to intelligence minister Yisrael Katz during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusale on September 26, 2017. File photo: Pool via AP/Gali Tibbon
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz has invited the Saudi Crown Prince who called the Iranian Supreme Leader "the new Hitler of the Middle East" to visit Israel.
In an interview with the Saudi newspaper Elaph, Katz said that the Arab world has more to lose due to the growing influence of Iran in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have official diplomatic relations, but both consider Tehran a common enemy. There are also indications that the two share resources to counter the Iranian influence.
The Israeli minister said that while they do not have a policy with regard to the fate of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, they do have their own "red lines" when it comes to the prospect of an Iranian military base in the country or the transfer of advanced weaponry to Lebanese Hezbollah through Syria.
Assad and its backer Russia are well aware of the red lines of Israel in this regard, Katz said, adding that their many airstrikes in Syria demonstrate Tel Aviv follows words by actions.
The intelligence minister warned that Lebanon will become a target if Hezbollah, backed by Iran, initiated a war on Israel.
"We know and have intelligence that Iran is building factories for advanced missiles in Lebanon, and here I want to emphasize and make it absolutely clear that we drew a new red line and we will not allow them to do that at every cost," Katz, who is from ruling Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Saudi newspaper.
He called Saudi Arabia, alongside Egypt, the leader of the Arab world.
"I remember a Saudi minister said lately that they will return Hezbollah to their caves in southern [Lebanon]. I say we return Lebanon to the Stone Age," Katz said with determination.
The Saudi newspaper deleted a portion of the interview about Katz’s invitation to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is known for his anti-Iran stances, but a spokesperson for Katz confirmed the invitation.
Iran is not able to export its revolution, nor can destabilize Israel, as it is doing in the Arab world such as in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria, the Israeli minister expressed.
He also said that Iran poses a "threat" to the Russian interests in Syria by establishing a military base, and building factories for weapons and missiles.
"We have stopped them [Iran] from establishing air, land, and navy bases in Syria, and Bashar al-Assad knows this very well," Katz said.
Iran and its allied Iraqi and Lebanese militia such as Hezbollah have supported the Syrian regime against the Syrian rebels during the nearly seven-year-old civil war.
"We protect our interests and our red lines in Syria. We will not allow any violation against our sovereignty, or an attack on us from there, or the transfer of advanced weapons from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon through Syria. We have always followed words with actions," Katz said of the Iranian threat to Israel in Syria.
Asked about the presence of Iraq’s Qais al-Khazali, the head of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militia Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, Katz said he did not believe the militia leader wanted to send a message from Iran to Israel.
It is a message to the Lebanese government, Katz noted, saying that this matter concerns Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri who wanted to resign from his post in opposition to Iranian influence and Hezbollah.
Hariri condemned Khazali's visit to Lebanon, saying that he did not enter Lebanon legally.
Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi Prince, in late November described Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the "Hitler of the Middle East," who must be stopped.
He said Riyadh would make use of its muscles to put a stop to a growing Iranian influence in the Arab world.
The Shiite-majority Iran and the Saudi Arabia’s Sunni kingdom support rival forces across the Middle East such as in Yemen where Riyadh is leading a relentless war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The air campaign has caused one of the greatest recent humanitarian crises, as hundreds of thousands of civilians are suffering from malnutrition and lack of medicine.