NEW DELHI: Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies' (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv on Jan. 19, said that if he had to choose between Iran and the Islamic State, he'd "choose ISIS."

Ya’alon’s explanation was that Iran had greater capabilities than the Islamic State, and was therefore, a bigger threat to Israel. He went as far as to say that if Syria were to fall to either Iran or the Islamic State, he would prefer it to be the latter and not Iran or Iran-backed groups. . "We believe ISIS will be eventually defeated territorially after the blows it has been suffering, and in light of the attacks on its oil reserves," the minister said.

Tehran, Ya’alon said, "is a rogue regime with designs on a regional hegemony. Hezbollah is Iran's proxy, with the ability to declare war. Iran currently has terror infrastructure in place in five continents: Asia, Africa, Europe and both in South and North America."

The Defence Minister added that the current problems in the region show that West Asia was at the height of “clash of civilisations” -- adding that Israel had some similarities to Sunni Muslim powers who are also threatened by Shia Islam.

The controversial comments come just days after sanctions were lifted off Iran, a move that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has severely criticised. Ya’alon rejected the idea that the nuclear deal with Tehran and the P5+1 could lead to new opportunities, saying the nuclear agreement only "pushed back the clock from three months to one year” and that “if Iran feels economically secure, it can breakout and produce a bomb even faster."

Under the agreement, Iran has agreed to a 15-year moratorium on enriching uranium beyond 3.67 percent and other restrictions, in returning secure a lifting of sanctions that have crippled its economy for years.

Iran, he claimed is becoming a key player in the region as the country supports Damascus against a large insurgency. Ya'alon says that Iran is a key source of instability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and Gaza.

Ya’alon’s comments are also indication of the growing rift between Israel and the US on the issue, and on foreign policy in general, as while the US is stepping up the fight against the Islamic State, its ally Israel has chosen instead to strike Hezbollah groups inside Syria.

The strategy in Syria, Ya’alon said, should be "to strengthen local forces with 'boots on the ground,' like the Kurds are doing."

Meanwhile, tensions between Israel and the US continue to simmer, as Dan Shapiro, the US Ambassador to Israel, elicited a sharp rebuke from Israeli leaders as he accused Israel of failing to properly investigate crimes committed against Palestinians. “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities, too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians,” Shapiro said.