Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz took a strong tone against Iran on Monday, telling the annual conference of the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby in Washington, DC that Israel would not allow Tehran to entrench its troops on Syria's border with Israel on the Golan Heights.
"I say from this stage to the Iranian regime: Never again," Gantz said. "We will not allow you to establish yourselves in Syria. We will not allow you to develop a nuclear weapon."
The former IDF chief, who is seeking to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister when Israel goes to the polls on April 9, also gave a wry nod to the revelation that the Iranian regime is suspected of having hacked his cell phone.
"You know me well," he said in a message to the Iranians, "and not because of my cell phone... On my watch Iran will not become a regional power, and I will not hesitate to use force when needed."
Gantz also addressed other Israeli enemies with a warning that the Jewish state would not be defeated.
"Let Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda and ISIS know - we’ve met before on the battlefield. You know the result," he said.
He also expressed the desire for Iranians to be free of the regime in Tehran.
"I know that the children of Tehran, and the children of Jerusalem, are born free of hate," he said. "I know that the Iranian people are waiting for a new dawn - one I hope, we will all get to see in our lifetime."
Touching on the rocket strike from Gaza on a home in central Israel early Monday, which the IDF attributed to Hamas, Gantz said that the leaders of the Palestinian terror group should recall that Israel assassinated one of its most senior officials during the Gaza conflict of 2012 and was capable of doing the same again.
"The reality in the south, as we unfortunately saw today, where Israeli children spend their nights in bomb shelters, while the heads of Hamas celebrate must end now – and it will," he told the conference.
"The heads of Hamas had forgotten what happened to Ahmed Jabari - their chief of staff. They will get a personal reminder if they continue targeting our population, as will all terrorists," Gantz said. "We will maintain our military edge; we will firmly keep our security advantage - by air, by land, by sea, and even under the sea."
Gantz said, however, that Israel would always reach out in welcome to anyone who sought peace, but added that the state had several red lines it would not cross.
"To those that would like to turn a new page, we will extend our hand in peace and we will strive for peace with any honest and willing Arab leader," he said.
"With every future agreement we will not compromise on this: Jerusalem is, and will always be, Israel’s united and eternal capital.The Jordan Valley is, and always will remain, Israel’s eastern security border. The responsibility for security over the entire Land of Israel will remain in the hands of the IDF, and the IDF alone."
Furthermore, Gantz said that Israel would "never withdraw from the Golan Heights. Never."
Netanyahu was also due to address the conference, but cancelled his appearance in order to return to Israel to oversee what he said would be a harsh response to the rocket attack. He was, however, due to hold talks with US President Donald Trump at the White House, for a meeting that would see the US formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.