Netanyahu praises West’s fight against ISIS, draws parallel with Hamas conflict
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, praised Canada Tuesday for sending special forces to Iraq to fight the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq & Al-Sham, telling a Canadian interviewer of the need to stamp out the “poison trees” of jihadist Islam.
“We fought them, you fight them now. Let’s fight them together,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s Evan Solomon via video link.
The interview came only hours after Israeli forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had strayed into the country’s airspace, marking the first time since 1982 Israel has destroyed a Syrian military aircraft.
Mr. Netanyahu said the jet’s infiltration “may have been accidental,” but asserted Israel “can’t take the risk” of an armed foreign aircraft over its cities.
“We can’t have the aircraft moving towards Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or Haifa; we just [had to] bring it down,” he said.
Tuesday also saw a wave of U.S.-led air strikes on ISIS targets in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Mr. Netanyahu said he applauded U.S. and Canadian efforts to battle a “common enemy” that is “threatening everyone.” He also drew parallels between the world’s growing anti-ISIS coalition and Israel’s own efforts to fight Hamas.
“Hamas is ISIS. ISIS is Hamas,” the Israeli prime minister said.
“They have different minutiae of theological differences of ethnic origin. Who cares? They are part and parcel of the same militant Islamic scourge.”
Last month, marked the end of a 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas-led Islamists in Gaza that saw thousands of rockets fired into Israeli territory and the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians in Israeli military strikes.
Among the leaders of Group of Seven nations, Stephen Harper, the prime minister, was the most unequivocal in his support for Israel during the conflict. Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu called Mr. Harper a “clear-eyed leader and a very principled and moral leader” and expressed his “thanks” and “gratitude” to Canada.
At a time when foreign policy experts in Europe and the United States are urging an anti-ISIS alliance among Iran, Syria and Western nations, Mr. Netanyahu staunchly maintained Iran and Syria should remain diplomatically isolated.
“My strategy is don’t strengthen one or the other — weaken both,” he said, adding there is no need to “reward” Iran and Syria for fighting ISIS because they are “doing it anyway.”
“If [Syrian dictator Bashar al-]Assad [said], ‘Now, well let me have my chemical weapons back because I’m fighting ISIS,’ we would all snort in laughter because he’s doing it anyway,” said Mr. Netanyahu.
Barack Obama, the U.S. president, has been careful to emphasize air strikes against ISIS would not be a precursor to sending U.S. combat troops to fight another Middle Eastern war.
But Mr. Netanyahu left open the possibility the fight against ISIS could pull in ground troops, arguing it would be worth the cost.
“I’m concerned about what would happen if this danger is NOT confronted because it would grow and grow and grow and this is what we fear,” he said.