US-Israel alliance is ‘rock-solid’ despite differences on Iran, PM says in Switzerland; adds Islamic State ‘can be defeated’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2016. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2016. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)


Israel is working to prevent Palestinian economic hardship amid the wave of terror attacks since October, in order to head off radicalization in Palestinian society, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Netanyahu told CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria that “the Palestinians are split.”

Using an Arabic term for the Islamic State jihadist group, Daesh, Netanyahu warned that the “Daeshization of the Islamic world is a great danger, first of all to the Islamic world, then to everyone else.”

That was true of the Palestinians, too, he continued.

“Half of their society is controlled by militant Islam under Iranian sway,” he said, referring to the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, which he said received some $100 million from Iran annually. “And there’s Daesh in Gaza.”

An Islamic State affiliate has occasionally fought gunbattles with Hamas security forces in the coastal territory over the past two years and launched rockets at Israel.

In the West Bank, Netanyahu said, “the other half” of Palestinian society faces a similar threat of radicalization.

“I think we’ve been careful to enable the [Palestinian] economy to continue even as we have this wave of stabbings, because we don’t want the overall population to fall into that trap. But I think this is going to be a constant challenge.”

Netanyahu also said it was possible to defeat Islamic State, as a US-led coalition has been trying to do since late 2014.

“I think it’s a doable thing. I think ISIS [an acronym for IS] can be defeated. ISIS is an idea plus territory plus oil. It is possible to knock out the oil, which takes away half their revenues. It is possible to get at the nerve centers of their ideas, which are concentrated basically in two places: It’s in Raqqa [in Syria] and it’s in Mosul [in Iraq]; it doesn’t require taking care of all of Syria and Iraq. And we have these discussions with the United States and with others about this task.”

In the interview, Netanyahu took pains to laud the US-Israel alliance.

The US and Israel were discussing an expansion of American military aid to Israel. “The American assistance to Israel is about $3.1 billion [annually]. Here we’re talking about a bigger package. I hope we’ll reach a successful conclusion [to the talks] in the coming months. And it’s a sign of how strong the American-Israeli alliance is.”

A US delegation is due in Israel next week as part of discussions over the new military package, with the current agreement due to expire in 2017, the Haaretz daily reported.

Israel’s total defense budget amounts to some $16 billion, excluding the US aid.

Netanyahu acknowledged years of acrimony with the Obama administration over the recently implemented Iran nuclear deal and the peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We can have our disagreements. We do. They always publicize it as very dramatic. But,” he added, “the alliance between the United States and Israel is so strong and so powerful that the only thing that’s collapsed is the talk of the imminent American-Israeli collapse. It’s very clear that’s not going to happen, and that this partnership is rock-solid, and will remain so.”

Before his interview with Zakaria, Netanyahu sat down both with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden.

The White House later said in a statement that during the meeting, Biden “reaffirmed the unshakable US commitment to Israel’s security, and the two leaders discussed ways to further deepen security cooperation to confront common regional threats.”

According to the statement, Biden and Netanyahu “also discussed regional developments, including Syria, the campaign against ISIL [an acronym for IS], the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, steps to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities, and opportunities for Israel to expand energy partnerships with countries in the eastern Mediterranean to enhance regional prosperity and cooperation.”

As reported by The Times of Israel