Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he is speaking up on behalf of the whole region that is threatened by a malevolent Iran, and that this is bringing Israel and its Arab neighbors closer together.
Netanyahu told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that although he was the most outspoken against the Iran nuclear deal, Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were quietly saying the same thing.
“The Arab countries sort of whisper things in the dark; they wouldn’t say it outright,” he said. “I had to sort of speak out for everyone in the region.”
“Iran has become more aggressive, more deadly, sponsoring more terrorism,” Netanyahu, who was visiting the US, told Hannity. “With more money. And people are saying ‘wait a minute, this roaring tiger, if it’s not stopped, it will devour all of us.”
Netanyahu praised former US president Barack Obama for his support of Israel, but said that he is glad to have a new president in the White House who sees eye to eye with Israel and the Arab states on the dangers of a nuclear Iran.
“It’s dangerous for America, dangerous for Israel, dangerous for the Arabs,” he said. “Everybody now understands it. And there’s an American president who understands it. And we’re talking about what to do about this common threat.”
At a joint press conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump spoke of his goal to prevent Iran ever realizing its nuclear ambitions.
“One of the worst deals I’ve ever seen is the Iran deal,” Trump said. “My administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more to prevent Iran from ever developing — I mean ever — a nuclear weapon.”
The prime minister spoke of the change in the relationship between Israel and its neighbors driven by a shared concern about the rise of radical Islam.
“I think there is a change, and the change is coming because of the rise of radical Islam. Radical Islam has two fountainheads,” Netanyahu explained. “One is the radical Sunnis led by ISIS and before that by Al Qaeda, and the radical Shiites led by Iran. The Arab countries are threatened by both.
“And when they look around they say ‘who’s going to help us against these twin threats?’ And they say ‘there’s one country in the region that’s powerful, that’s determined, that’s resolved to fight this common enemy, and that’s Israel.’ So they don’t view us any more as their enemy, but increasingly they see us as their ally, against the common threat.”
At Wednesday’s press conference Netanyahu had said that the best hope for a peace deal with the Palestinians was as part of a regional consensus.
“I believe that the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach from involving our new-found Arab partners in the pursuant of a broader peace and peace with the Palestinians,” he said. Trump agreed that this was an approach they were exploring.
In addition to the danger of radical Islam, the prime minister said that the other Middle East countries are concerned that Iran will have nuclear weapons in 10 years.
“The deal essentially said this — it said ‘no bomb today, 100 bombs tomorrow, in 10 years,'” Netanyahu said. “And Iran doesn’t change its attitude… We’re all prey to this militant Islamic regime that will arm itself with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that can reach you.”
Netanyahu ended the interview by saying that Iran also poses a clear threat to the US.
Iran has “killed Americans all over the place,” he said. “They sponsor terrorism against Americans all over the place. Now they’re going to build ICBMs? Intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the United States? And have the multiple warheads to do that? That’s horrible. It’s dangerous for America, dangerous for Israel, dangerous for the Arabs.”