The Weak are Slaughtered, the Strong Prevail: Netanyahu Says Israel Will Not Shy Away From Conflict

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stark warning to the country's Middle Eastern rivals yesterday, declaring that peace could only be achieved alongside a strong Israeli nation-state.

Speaking at an event to rename an Israeli nuclear research facility after former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Netanyahu said the late statesman's wish for peace was always built on the provision that Israel would "strongly grasp defensive weaponry," The Times of Israel reported.

The prime minister said this approach was necessary to ensure the survival of the country. "In the Middle East, and in many parts of the world, there is a simple truth: There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive," Netanyahu said.

"The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong," he added.

Israel's strength, the prime minister said, was to thank for the "normalization" of relations with "leading countries in the Arab world" that have traditionally been enemies. It appears he was referring to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with whom Israel is now working closely on a range of issues.

In a thinly veiled message to Iran, Netanyahu warned that Israel remained a threat. "But our enemies know very well what Israel is capable of doing. They are familiar with our policy. Whoever tries to hurt us—we hurt them," he said.

"I am not spouting slogans. I am describing a persistent, clear and determined policy…backed by appropriate deployment, equipment, preparedness and—in the hour of need—appropriate orders," the prime minister continued.

The comments, later posted to the official prime ministerial Twitter account, were met with criticism on social media. Some compared Netanyahu's rhetoric to fascist speeches from the 1930s, while Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran was being "threatened with atomic annihilation by a warmonger standing next to an actual nuclear weapons factory."

Netanyahu was one of the most vocal critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 deal signed with Iran to curtail its nuclear weapons research in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. The prime minister said his government would help the U.S. to "apply pressure on the dangerous, extremist regime" in Iran, and continue to pressure Tehran to withdraw its forces from neighboring Syria.

It is significant that Netanyahu made the fiery remarks at the country's top-secret nuclear research facility. Israel is the only state in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons, though its policy of "strategic ambiguity" makes it difficult to say how large its atomic armory is. Estimates reach as high as 400 nuclear warheads.