Israel's 'new rule' – whoever sends terrorists will pay

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issues warning amid claims of an Iranian plot against Israelis overseas

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his country will 'continue to strike those who send terrorists'. EPA
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Israel has said it will embrace a “new rule” to protect its citizens abroad and its national security after an alleged Iranian plot against Israeli citizens overseas set off alarm bells.

At a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave the warning, after what he called Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Turkey and in various locations abroad.

“We will continue to strike those who send the terrorists … Our new rule is: whoever sends, pays,” he said, citing fears of an imminent Iranian attack.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and it strongly opposed the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, which eased economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities.

That deal foundered when former US president Donald Trump withdrew his country in 2018. Recent efforts to revive the pact seem to have stalled.

Israel also claims that Iran might use its proxy Lebanese movement Hezbollah to draw it into another direct battle. The sides fought in 2006.

Last week, Israel's military chief of staff Aviv Kochavi told Hezbollah that overwhelming force would be used in Lebanon if another war broke out with the Iran-backed movement.

“We will deal very big strikes in the war, but we will warn the residents and allow them to leave the areas,” Mr Kochavi said.

“I say to the residents of Lebanon: I advise you to leave, not only at the beginning of the war, but from the beginning of tension and before the first shot is fired.

“I advise you to leave those areas because the attack force will be unimaginable, like you nothing you have witnessed before.”

Mr Bennett also renewed his government’s warning for the Israeli citizens to avoid flying to Turkey — especially Istanbul — at this time.

“The security services of the State of Israel are working to thwart attempted attacks before they are launched,” he said at the Cabinet meeting.

Israel issued a travel warning for Turkey last week. According to the Israeli government’s website, the level of threat was raised for Istanbul to Level 4 by the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, which is affiliated to the National Security Council.

Level 4 is the highest and means a security situation is critical. Threat levels are designed to give a broad indication of the likelihood of a terrorist attack.

The security notice excluded flights with connections in Istanbul, as long as Israelis do not leave the airport.

Turkey responded last week to the Israeli security warnings by reassuring the world that it is a safe country.

“These travel warnings are considered to be related to different international developments and motives,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

On Sunday, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his country’s efforts in foiling reported planned terrorist attacks against Israelis in Istanbul.

“I thanked him for the efforts to thwart terrorist activities on Turkish soil,” Mr Herzog said in a message on Twitter. “I emphasised that the threat has not yet passed.”

“Our co-operation makes a great contribution to the trust being built between our countries’ governments and peoples,” Mr Herzog said.

“We agreed to continue working for peace and stability in our region by means of open and ongoing dialogue.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is expected to visit Turkey on Thursday for talks with senior officials, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel last month, as the once close military allies work to overcome years of tensions.

Diplomatic ties hit an all-time low in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists on board Turkish-owned ship the Mavi Marmara in international waters.

It was part of a group of ships attempting to break a blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel claimed that its special forces were attacked first by the activists.

In 2016, Israel and Turkey officially announced the end of their six-year diplomatic rift.

Updated: June 20, 2022, 8:04 AM