JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel views with “upmost gravity” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to sell advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran.
Netanyahu made his remarks Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting, a day after Putin warned Israel against selling arms to Ukraine, which Israel floated as a response to the Russian sale of S-300 missiles to Iran.
“Israel views with utmost gravity the supply of S-300 missiles from Russia to Iran,” Netanyahu said, “especially at a time when Iran is stepping up its aggression in the region and around the borders of the State of Israel.”
Iran reportedly has said Russia could deliver the missile systems to the Islamic Republic this year.
“Every year the missiles are bigger and enhanced – in accuracy, strength and deadliness. However, one thing does not change. What does not change is the inscription ‘Death to Israel’ on the missiles,” Netanyahu said. “Against the threats that I have described, Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend the security of the state and its citizens.”
He reportedly called Putin last week to protest the sale.
“Vladimir Putin explained the rationale for the decision in the current context and highlighted the fact that due to their tactical and technical characteristics, S-300s have a purely defensive significance and pose no threat to Israel,” the Kremlin said in a statement, according to Russian media reports.
Putin also reportedly said that Russia’s withholding of selling the weapons to Iran had been voluntary and not connected to international sanctions against Iran.
The Russian leader, speaking to state-run media, in his warning to Israel reportedly said, “It’s the Israeli leadership’s choice. It’s their right to do what they think is appropriate.” Putin called the proposed sale “counterproductive.”
“It will only lead to another round of conflicts, to a rise in the number of victims, and the outcome will be the same,” he reportedly said.