Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel was “shielding” Europe from the spread of Islamist terrorism and the Continent should therefore be less “hostile” to the Jewish state, as world leaders gathered in France at an event marking 100 years since World War I.
“Israel is Europe’s shield in the Middle East [from terrorism], and without us it would spread and and many more people would push into Europe,” said Netanyahu at a press conference on the sidelines of the commemorations in Paris. “When we protect ourselves, we are also protecting Europe.”
The prime minister also suggested European leaders should “change their approach to us” as a result of this alleged protection.
“We certainly have criticism of the one-sided and hostile approach of the European Union to Israel,” said the prime minister, singling out European funding for human rights groups that document alleged abuses by Israeli soldiers.
Around 70 leaders, including the Russian and US leaders, traveled to the French capital to mark the centenary of the 1918 Armistice.
The comments came after Israel, in recent years, began to credit its intelligence-sharing with allied nations for helping thwart terror attacks in Europe.
Last month, Israeli officials said the Mossad intelligence service provided its Danish counterpart with information concerning an alleged plot by Tehran to assassinate three Iranian opposition figures living in the Scandinavian country.
In July, Hebrew media reports said Israel’s Mossad spy agency thwarted a terror attack in a Paris suburb a month earlier, giving authorities in France, Germany, and Belgium crucial intelligence that led to arrests of a cell headed by an Iranian diplomat.
In January, Netanyahu indicated that Israel has prevented hijacked airplanes from crashing into European cities.
“We have, through our intelligence services, provided information that has stopped several dozen major terrorist attacks, many of them in European countries,” he told foreign diplomats in Jerusalem.
“Some of these could have been mass attacks, of the worst kind that you have experienced on the soil of Europe and even worse, because they involve civil aviation. Israel has prevented that, and thereby helped save many European lives,” Netanyahu said, apparently referring to plane hijackings.
The prime minister in recent years has also stepped up his criticism of the European Union over its position on the Palestinians and the Iran nuclear deal. In July 2017, he was caught on a hot mic calling the 28-nation bloc’s policies on Israel “crazy.”
Agencies contributed to this report.