The casualties of Sunday’s deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando were victims of homophobia and intolerance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
“These people were doing nothing wrong,” he said. “They were dancing with friends and enjoying music with loved ones. The terrorist murdered them because he was driven by intolerance to the LGBT community and driven by hatred for freedom and diversity.”
Addressing foreign diplomats in Jerusalem, the prime minister drew a direct parallel between terror attacks in Israel and elsewhere in the world.
“Paris, London, Brussels, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bali, Mumbai, New York, San Bernardino, now Orlando — so many cities have been struck by the same evil,” he said. “Terror knows no bounds and that’s why our cooperation — the battle against terrorism — must know no bounds as well. One day [the Islamic State] kills gays, the next day Yazidis, then Jews and Muslims and Christians. They have no bounds.”
Terror, which he defined as the “indiscriminate systematic attack on innocent people,” must always be fought, Netanyahu said. “It doesn’t depend on the identity of the victims, it depends on the nature of the act. The act is evil. It is perpetrated by people with evil designs. And we, the people of the civilized world, have to stand together to defeat it.”
The attack, at the Pulse gay club in Orlando, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was perpetrated by Omar Mateen, 29, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Netanyahu was addressing a gathering of about a dozen ambassadors from North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states. Last month, NATO invited Israel to open an official mission at its Brussels headquarters.
“I want to inform you that we’re in the process of opening the office as soon as possible. We attach great importance to that,” the prime minister said, pledging to help NATO defeat the Islamic State by sharing intelligence and counter-terrorism know-how.
“Israel has much to contribute to NATO; and I believe that NATO has much to contribute to Israel,” he said.
Danish ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr, who acts as a local liaison with NATO, said the Western defense alliance and the Jewish state confront the same challenges. “There are so many threats that are facing NATO that are similar to the ones facing Israel.”
Vahr then read a message from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who called Israel a “very important partner” for the organization. “Like the nations of the alliance, Israel is an open, democratic society,” he said, adding that today both Israel and NATO face “greater, more complex threats” than in the past.
Israel has for many years been an active partner in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, which Stoltenberg said is “the only security forum that brings together NATO allies with Israel and Arab countries.”
The new Israeli mission at NATO headquarters will help further expand bilateral cooperation, he said. “Israel and NATO are natural partners, and I very much look forward to an even closer relationship.”