Israeli president Isaac Herzog called on the international community on Thursday to create “a very strong coalition” against “an empire of evil emanating from Iran”.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Herzog’s call for a coalition to face Iran and its proxies comes against a backdrop of rising tensions in the Middle East following the Israel-Hamas conflict, sparked by Iran-backed Hamas's October 7 invasion of Israel. Some 1,200 mostly civilians were murdered and over 250 more taken hostage.
There is an empire of evil emanating from Tehran, spending billions of dollars in arms and money and people's well-being to derail the entire stability of the world and the region. They've attacked the United States forces two nights ago, openly. They have proxies all over the region quietly lurking to undermine any peace process and any stability of the world. And that is exactly what we are seeing – and they have to be faced by a very strong coalition, Herzog said.
Though the Iranian regime has avoided any direct involvement in the Gaza war, Tehran has used its proxy groups in the region such as Houthis and Hezbollah to attack Israeli and American targets since the war began. From north to south, around 250,000 Israelis have been displaced since October.
"Every Israeli wants to know that he will not be attacked in the same way from north or south or east," explained the President. "You have Hezbollah in the north, armed up to its neck by Iran, financed by Iran, and simply firing, ongoing, and killing civilians, and killing soldiers, and going to war with Israel."
Speaking of Iran's influence on Gaza, he added: "It was taken over by Hamas in a coup d’etat in 2007 after we pulled out of Gaza unilaterally to the last iota. And from then on, it became a platform for Iran and all its proxies. And from then on, we had thousands of missiles on our heads."
Yemen's Houthis, in particular, have disrupted regional stability and international trade by targeting shipping lanes in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The blockade, instigated by Iran's Supreme Leader, has seen the US lead a multinational naval coalition in the Red Sea to protect trade vessels.
At least 20 countries, including Britain, Norway, Seychelles, France, the Netherlands, Australia and Italy, have joined the coalition and the US and UK have carried out direct attacks on Houthi assets in Yemen in recent days.
Dozens of attacks on the global shipping route have forced many companies to reroute to longer and more expensive journeys around Africa.
As recently as Thursday morning, Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani expressed support for the attacks carried out by Yemeni Houthi rebels on commercial ships in the region. “The Yemenis are moving in the direction of the world’s wishes, undoubtedly achieving victory, and we commend their efforts,” he stated.
How to end the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict has been a ubiquitous topic in most of the discussions held in the World Economic Forum’s main stage. Referring to the issue, the Israeli president stressed that neither the political establishment nor the public opinion in Israel considers the possibility of a peace agreement at the moment given the ongoing war with Hamas.
“If you ask an average Israeli now about his or her mental state, nobody in his right mind is willing now to think about what will be the solution of the peace agreements,” Herzog noted, adding that the annihilation of Iran-backed Hamas would benefit Israelis, Palestinians, and the entire free world.
He added that in order for any peace process to come into existence and be viable, Israel first needs guarantees to make sure that it will not witness another deadly rampage like the one carried out by Hamas militants on October 7.
Nonetheless, Herzog did not reject the prospect of peace in the region: “We all understand that there has to be a vision, and I think part of it should be also going back to the normalization process of Israel and its neighbors.”
Herzog’s remarks came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the integration of Israel in the region and the creation of a Palestinian state, saying these actions would isolate the Islamic Republic and its proxy groups.
Israel will not experience “genuine integration” and “genuine security” without a Palestinian state, Blinken stressed.
Citing three anonymous US officials, NBC News reported on Wednesday that the Israeli government has turned down Blinken’s peace plan. According to the proposal, Saudi Arabia would normalize its relations with Israel in case the latter approved of a pathway towards Palestinian statehood.
American news website Axios announced on Sunday that Washington is “frustrated” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over “his rejection of most of the [US] administration’s recent requests related to the war in Gaza.”