PM: Iran ‘most potent force of militant Islam’; threatens Israel, Europe alike

In Bulgaria for international forum, Netanyahu says West must ‘stand together’ in countering threat to its civilization

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Varna, Bulgaria, on November 1, 2018 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Varna, Bulgaria, on November 1, 2018 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday night called Iran the “most potent force of militant Islam” in the world and warned Europe of possible Iranian attacks on its soil.

Speaking to reporters after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borissov, Netanyahu said radical Islam is a threat to the world, and that Israel has recently revealed a number of Iranian plots to carry out attacks on European soil.

He said Israel and Europe “stand together” in the face of such attacks.

Israeli officials said Wednesday that the Mossad intelligence service had provided its Danish counterpart with information concerning an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate opposition activists in its territory.

“We are part of the same civilization, a civilization that values liberty, peace and progress, and today this civilization is under attack, most notably by the forces of militant Islam. Militant Islam attacks all of us. It attacks Arabs. It attacks Europeans. It attacks Israelis. It attacks everyone,” he said.

Netanyahu arrived in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna for Friday’s meeting of the Craiova Forum, which includes the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, as well as the president of Serbia.

Ahead of his trip, Netanyahu said he wants to strengthen ties with these countries and “change the hostile and hypocritical approach of the European Union” toward Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Varna, Bulgaria, on November 1, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The premier said he would discuss with Bulgaria’s prime minister cooperation on military matters, trade, cyber-security, health and science.

“Israel is an innovation nation and it can help the people of Bulgaria and the other countries here by cooperating in ways that will help us and will help you in every field,” he said.

Netanyahu said the purpose of the visit was to strengthen Israel’s relationship with Balkan nations, but also to promote his agenda with the European bloc, which he has long chastised for what he claims is an anti-Israel bias.

Netanyahu didn’t specify which of the EU’s policies he takes issue with, but he has previously been at loggerheads with the bloc over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Iran nuclear deal. Members of the coalition and some in the opposition also often claim that the union treats the Jewish state unfairly and often stands on the wrong side of history.

Brussels’ adamant opposition to settlement expansion and to Israel’s demolition of Palestinian structures, as well as European funding of leftist nonprofits, have angered right-wing Israelis for years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Jerusalem, on May 20, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Israel’s ties with the 28-member state union significantly worsened after the EU’s November 2015 decision to label settlement products. In its initial anger, Israel suspended contacts with the EU, but soon reinstated them. There were other signs of a detente, for example when a senior official in Brussels said in late 2016 that the union was willing to reconvene the EU-Israel Association Council, a bilateral forum on ministerial level, after a five-year hiatus.

But relations quickly went south again. In July 2017, Netanyahu was overheard, during a visit to Budapest, calling the EU “crazy” for insisting on linking the advancement of bilateral ties to progress in the peace process.

Tensions were exacerbated after US President Donald Trump’s December 6, 2017, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move the union vehemently opposed.

Brussels also assumed the role of chief defender of the Iranian nuclear deal after Trump announced the US’s withdrawal from the landmark pact on March 8. Brussels not only condemned the president’s move but also vowed to protect European companies from reimposed sanctions.

Israeli attacks on the union have since increased in frequency and intensity. Ministers openly accuse the EU of funding anti-Israel boycotts and even organizations with terrorist links.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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