WASHINGTON – The United States declined to endorse Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s outlook on the state of political Islam throughout the Middle East, responding to his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.
In the speech, Netanyahu said that all of militant Islam – regardless of its sectarian affiliation, its governing structure or its popular support – poses a cohesive ideological threat to the Western world.
“Certainly we see differences,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said after Netanyahu’s remarks. “We would not agree with that characterization.”
Netanyahu said that Islamic State, a terrorist organization seeking a caliphate throughout Iraq, Syria and the Levant, shares a similar philosophy to Hamas, which seeks the destruction of the State of Israel.
So, too, does the Islamic Republic of Iran, Netanyahu continued, which has regional ambitions for its particular viewpoint on Islam.
“The Nazis believed in a master race,” he said. “The militant Islamists believe in a master faith. They just disagree about who among them will be the master of the master faith.”
Psaki said that Hamas and Islamic State pose different threats, and acknowledged the region-specific ambitions of Hamas versus the global security consequences of the rise of Islamic State.
“Obviously, we’ve designated both as terrorist organizations, but ISIL [Islamic State] poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States,” she said in response. “And that’s just a fact.”
On Iran, Psaki said that the US would not agree to a deal predicated on what Netanyahu called in his speech a “charm offensive” embarked on by its new leadership.
She declined, however, to rank the threats posed by Islamic State and its legion of foreign fighters, and by Iran, with its expansive nuclear program.
“Obviously we’re taking on both threats because we feel both are important,” she said.
“We’re spending a great deal of time and energy because we are concerned, as is Israel, about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon... [and] we’re also concerned about the threat of ISIL [Islamic State], given all of the energy that we’re putting into that.”
The Israeli premier also called the UN Human Rights Commission a “terrorist commission.”
Psaki said the US disagreed with that characterization, as well, though the US does have concerns with the commission’s practices towards Israel.
Netanyahu will meet with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday at the White House.