Israel PM Netanyahu on Iraq Crisis: When Enemies Are Fighting Each Other, Weaken Both
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told journalists at the Jewish Media Conference, in Jerusalem, that rather than choosing to support either side in Iraq’s ongoing sectarian conflict, the best solution is to weaken both.
Netanyahu said, “We cannot correct in the near future this tragedy, neither in Syria nor in Iraq. Both camps, the radical Shi’ites led by Iran and the radical Sunnis led by Al-Qaeda and ISIS and other organizations, they’re enemies of our civilizations. They’re enemies of humanity. They’re enemies of Israel. They’re enemies of the United States. They’re enemies of every country that is represented here by you.”
“When your enemies are fighting one another, don’t strengthen either one of them. Weaken both,” he said. “There are things that can be done to blunt the ISIS takeover of Iraq, just as there are things that must be done to blunt Iran’s takeover of Iraq so that what happened in Lebanon and Syria is not replicated.”
“What is happening here now is that the centuries-old hatred between Sunnis and Shi’ites have now been uncorked with the collapse of the secular regimes, mostly dictatorships, that have contained this,” Netanyahu said. “They’ve collapsed and the Shi’ite militancies are fighting the Sunni militancies with greater and greater venom and barbarism and everyone gets caught in between. This is a fault line between civilization and savagery.”
Netanyahu told the contingent of more than a hundred Jewish journalists, in Jerusalem for the first summit of its type, that “in historical perspective, the most important thing is to make sure that a militant regime, a militant Islamic regime or a militant Islamic movement does not get its hands on the weapons of mass destruction. That is the number one imperative of our times.”
He said that, while incomplete, the process to remove chemical weapons and their means of production from Syria must be replicated in Iran to not allow the Islamic Republic to gain a nuclear weapon. He said Iran is developing long-range missiles for the sole purpose of carrying nuclear warheads.
Netanyahu said: “Now, while the Syrian conflict was not solved, what was achieved there in this realm was important. The agreement to get rid of the chemical weapons in Syria was important. And it’s almost completed – over 90%, much more even, has been removed. Notice what I said: Removed. The chemical stockpiles, the weapons, the means to manufacture chemical weapons – they’ve been removed, taken out of Syria. And that task should be completed.”
“That is not the deal that is now, I fear, being negotiated with Iran,” he said. “Rather than dismantle and remove, what is being discussed with Iran is to keep and inspect. Very different. In other words, most of the sanctions would be lifted from Iran and most of the capability would be left in Iran. Bad. Exceedingly bad and exceedingly dangerous for the future of the world – not only the region, not only Israel, the world.”
“Iran is developing ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles. They don’t need it for Israel. They don’t need it for attacking us. They’re intended to attack anyone within thousands and thousands of kilometers of their range, and ICBMs have only one purpose: To have nuclear bomb warheads.”
Allowing any Islamist group to gain nuclear weapons would be “the height of folly,” Netanyahu said.
“This will change history. It will be a pivot of history in a catastrophic way. That should not happen,” he said. “If there is one message that needs to be put out today it is: Don’t let Iran on the sidelines of this conflict in Iraq have nuclear weapons capability because sooner or later – and it’s sooner rather than later – they’ll have atomic bombs. That should be prevented.”
In the long history of the Jewish people, Netanyahu said, “if there’s one thing we learned… it is that we have to identify danger in time and take action against it in time.”
“When the Jewish people failed to do that, we paid a horrendous price – the most horrendous price that any people have paid in history and we have learned that lesson,” he said.
Netanyahu said that “the rising tide of anti-Semitism, especially in Europe,” is “an amalgamation of three forces: hard Left, hard Right and the Islamist anti-Semitism.”
“We’ve seen the bloody consequences of this hatred in Toulouse and in Brussels and elsewhere. And we have to fight it,” he said, referring to the murder of Jews by Islamists in both cities. “We cannot accept it. I think that we have to speak out against it forcefully. The only way you defeat a lie is with truth, with facts, with courage.”
In the U.S., he said that the “huge support for the State of Israel,” which he described as being at “an all-time high,” has been marred by the Presbyterian Church USA’s recent vote to divest from Israel.
He said that he “would ask them to come to the Middle East and look around. This is what they choose to do today when the Middle East is fragmented in this horrible war, this savage war, savagery between militant Shi’ites and militant Sunnis.”
“Hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered, millions are displaced, Christians are fleeing for their lives, churches are burnt,” Netanyahu said. “The only place where you have freedom, tolerance, protection of minorities, protection of gays, protection of Christians and all other faiths is Israel.”
“So I suggest to them to take a plane, come here and then if we can manage it, let’s arrange a bus tour for them in the region,” he said. “You know, let them go to Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq. And my only suggestion for them is that – well, I have two suggestions for them. One, that it be an armor-plated bus; and two, that they shouldn’t announce that they’re Christians.”
“Israel is the only place, it’s the only beacon of light, of true freedom, true tolerance, in this very large expanse between Gibraltar and the Khyber Pass,” the Israeli prime minister said.