Benjamin Netanyahu has been caught on-microphone saying Israel had bombed Iranian convoys “dozens of times,” and that Europe would “shrivel and disappear” unless it stopped pressuring Israel on settlements.

The Israeli prime minister’s unguarded comments – picked up by a reporter’s microphone as he spoke to leaders of eastern European countries on the side-lines of a press conference – shed new light on Israel’s secretive military operations, and on Netanyahu’s contemptuous views on Europe.

As well as telling Hungarian, Slovakian, Czech and Polish leaders to turn away refugees from Africa and the Middle East, Netanyahu claimed that the EU’s attitude to Israel would ultimately be the undoing of the continent.

“I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear,” he is quoted as saying.

“I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth – both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. Both of these concerns mandate a different policy toward Israel.”

Before officials realised the indiscretion and rushed to cut the feed, he added: “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, which produces technology in every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it.”

He also confirmed what most had long suspected, which is that the Israeli air force had struck Hezbollah-bound Iranian arms convoys in Syria “dozens and dozens of times,” in an admission of military action outside its borders.