Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran on Sunday that Israel "will act if necessary" after an Iranian drone entered the country's airspace earlier this month and warned the country is growing its presence in the Middle East.
Netanyahu made the remarks at the Munich Security Conference, where he urged U.S. and European officials and diplomats to counter Iran as the country increases its power as the Islamic State terror group has been decimated by the U.S., according to Reuters.
“The unfortunate thing is that as ISIS compresses and Iran moves in, it is trying to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza,” Netanyahu said.
He claimed the latest example of Iran's increasing power and brazeness was the incursion by an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on Feb. 10. The prime minister then theatrically held up a fragment of what he said was the drone and challenged Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the audience.
"Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should, it's yours," Netanyahu said. "You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran — do not test Israel's resolve!"
Iranian officials have denied that the drone belonged to them, and Zarif dismissed Netanyahu's display after his speech as "a cartoonish circus... which does not even deserve the dignity of a response."
"We will act if necessary, not just against Iran's proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself."
The Israeli prime minister said his country will not allow Iran "to put a noose of terror around our neck," adding that "we will act if necessary, not just against Iran's proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself."
Iranian officials at the conference suggested the Israeli leader may be escalating tensions to distract from his domestic problems after police said last week there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases. He has angrily rejected the accusations and denounced what he describes as an overzealous police investigation
Besides blasting Iran over the drone incident, he also knocked the 2015 nuclear deal that lifted sanctions against the country, saying it was similar to the infamous 1938 "Munich Agreement" that Western powers signed with Adolf Hitler in an attempt to stave off war in Europe, which became synonymous with appeasement.
"The concessions to Hitler only emboldened the Nazi regime," he said. "Rather than choosing a path that might have prevented war... those well-intentioned leaders made a wider war inevitable and far more costly."
Similarly, he said, the Iranian nuclear agreement has "unleashed a dangerous Iranian tiger in our region and beyond."
President Trump has expressed deep skepticism about the Iran nuclear deal. After extending sanctions waivers in January, Trump said he would not do so again when they come up for renewal in May unless his concerns are addressed.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a main architect of the nuclear deal under then-President Barack Obama, said it was "absolutely critical" to ensure it survives.
"We know what the world looks like without the Iran nuclear agreement," he said Sunday, speaking at the same conference. "It's not a better place."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.