Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel has thwarted terror attacks in more than 30 countries, appearing to confirm a minister’s claim on the extent of Israel’s intelligence sharing efforts.
“Israel’s security services and our remarkable intelligence services have prevented terrorist attacks in over 30 countries, major terrorist attacks — the downing of aircraft,” he said during a meeting in his office with the Panamanian president, referring to remarks in January that Israel has prevented hijacked airplanes from crashing into European cities.
“But today we have prevented such catastrophes by sharing our intelligence with other countries, as we share with our friends in Panama,” added Netanyahu.
Netanyahu did not provide specific details about the attacks Israel helped prevent, nor the countries that were targeted, and his office did not respond to a request for clarification.
The figure he provided echoed that given by Economy Minister Eli Cohen, who in February said Israel helped prevent attacks in more than 30 countries during 2017. Cohen’s assertion came shortly after Israel revealed that the Military Intelligence Unit 8200 had foiled an Islamic State attempt to bomb a flight from Australia last August.
Cohen was rebuked at the time for his claim by Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a member of the high-level security cabinet, who questioned Cohen’s credibility on security matters.
“He’s not a member of the security cabinet so he isn’t privy to all the information given by security and intelligence officials,” Elkin said of Cohen in an interview with Army Radio. “I’m not sure where he got those figures from.”
In his meeting Thursday with Panama’s Juan Carlos Varela, in which they inked a bilateral free trade deal, Netanyahu stressed the “common battle to fight terrorism,” while blasting Iran as the “preeminent terrorist state.”
“Iran was responsible for the horrible terrorist attacks in Argentina, and I think beyond that,” referring to the deadly bombings in the early 1990s of Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building. Israel has blamed the attacks on Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group backed by Iran, as well as senior Iranian officials.
“So we have a common battle to fight terrorism, and to fight the sponsors and dispatchers of terrorists,” added Netanyahu. “And we are doing it in the Middle East, but I think as I said, it encompasses today the entire world, the entire world.”
Echoing Netanyahu, Varela said all countries should be united in combating terror.
“The fight against terrorism shouldn’t have boundaries, ideologies, or fate. The fight against terrorism should unite all human beings to stop the evil that terrorists represent, and to fight for the right of all human beings to live in this world in peace,” he said.
Varela also thanked Netanyahu for providing Panama with information indicating Hezbollah was behind a terror attack in the country, apparently referring to the 1994 bombing of a plane in Panama in which 21 were killed.
“I received a letter from you confirming that I lost my roommate and a serious member of the Panamanian Jewish community to a terrorist attack conducted by Hezbollah in Panama some years ago. Thank you for that information. We shall share it with the family, and I will keep following that case to make sure that justice is done,” said Varela.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.