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Netanyahu on the Middle East
The other day, Nov. 9, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., after receiving an award from the AEI. As part of the Q&A, the AEI’s Danielle Pletka asked the following.
Pletka: There are plenty of voices, I would say growing in volume, both in the United States and I think even in Israel who suggest that we are better off with the Gaddafis and the Saddams and the Assads in place to tamp down on the Islamists who rise up and that secular dictatorship is really the solution that we should look for for the rest of the Middle East. Others say that democracy is only fertile ground for Islamists to rise up. Where do you come down on that?
Netanyahu: Well, I went to serve in the United Nations 100 years ago as Israel’s ambassador, and there was a woman there. Her name was Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
And I had read an article that she had written called “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” And she said basically in this article, we are committed to the larger battle against Soviet totalitarianism. And, on occasion, we decide for the larger goal to make arrangements with secular dictatorships. That’s basically what she said.
Now, mind you, Saddam was horrible, horrible, brutal killer. So was Gaddafi. There’s no question about that. I had my own dealings with each of them. But I do want to say that they were in many ways neighborhood bullies. That is, they tormented their immediate environment, but they were not wedded to a larger goal.
The militant Islamists, either Iran leading the militant Shiites with their proxies, Hizbullah and an Islamic Jihad and Hamas, or – even though Hamas is Sunni – or the militant Sunnis made by Da’esh, by ISIS, they have a larger goal in mind. Their goal is not merely the conquest of the Middle East. It’s the conquest of the world. It’s unbelievable. People don’t believe that. They don’t believe that it’s possible to have this quest for an imamate or a caliphate in the 21st century, but that is exactly what is guiding them.
And against this larger threat that could – that would present two Islamic states, one, the Islamic state of Da’esh, and the other, the Islamic Republic of Iran, each one of them seeking to arm themselves with weapons of mass death, chemical weapons in the case of ISIS, nuclear weapons in the case of Iran. That poses a formidable threat to our world.
And, therefore, if I have to categorize the threats, I would say that these are the larger threats. And it doesn’t mean that you have to form alliances with secular dictatorships. It means you have to categorize what is the larger threat. And that is something that I think is required from all of us. [Ed: emphasis mine.]
Political leadership involves always choosing between bad and worse. I seldom have had a choice between bad and good. I welcome it when it happens. But these are by far the easiest choices. It’s choosing between bad and worse that defines a good part of leadership. And I think I know how to choose that....
If I see a situation where I don’t have a clear concept, I don’t charge in. In Syria, I do not see a simple concept because you choose here between a horrible secular dictatorship or the two other prospects that would be buttressed by Iran, and you would have Iran run Syria, a horrible prospect for us, or Da’esh, which is also touching our borders on the Golan. When two of your enemies are fighting each other, I don’t say strengthen one or the other. I say weaken both, or at least don’t intervene, which is what I’ve done. I’ve not intervened....
I don’t want Syria to be used as a launching ground for attacks against us.
And I have said this to Vladimir Putin when I flew to Moscow to see him. I went to see him first to make sure that our planes don’t crash into each other. It’s not a good idea.
But I told him, here’s what we do in Syria. We will not allow Iran to set up a second front in the Golan, and we will act forcefully and have acted forcefully to prevent that. We will not allow the use of Syrian territory from which we’d be attacked by the Syrian army or anyone else. And we have acted forcefully against that.
And, third, we will not allow the use of Syrian territory for the transfer of game-changing weapons into Lebanon, into Hizbullah’s hands. And we have acted forcefully on that. I made it clear that we will continue to act that way....
Now, there is talk of an arrangement in Syria, and I spoke about it today in a very good conversation I had with President Obama. And I said that any arrangement that is struck in Syria, if one is achievable – I’m not sure Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again. I have strong doubts.
I’m not sure Syria as a state can be reconstituted. But whatever arrangements are made in Syria that do not preclude Iran from continuing its aggression against us directly or by transferring weapons to Hizbullah, that doesn’t oblige us. We have very clear policy demands in Syria. We keep them, and we’ll continue to keep them. The defense of Israel is what concerns me in Syria first and foremost, and on that we’ll continue to act forcefully.
Note: Da’esh, or Dash, is a derogatory term for ISIS (IS, ISIL) that the West is using increasingly to piss off the terrorists.
I continue to use the traditional spelling of Hizbullah for consistency. Years ago, this is what the Jerusalem Post and the Daily Star of Lebanon both used. Then they suddenly changed it. When you listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu pronounce it, it is “Hiz-bul-lah,” not “Hez-bol-lah.” Just sayin’.
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