Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett gestures during a preliminary vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem November 16, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett praised Saudi Arabia after the kingdom began an anti-corruption purge last week, in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett.
“It seems that [Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman] is consolidating power and looking at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is Iran,” Bennett said.
Muhammad had ordered the detainment of 11 princes, four current ministers and dozens of former ministers, amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Iranian- backed Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia accused Lebanon of declaring war against its kingdom last week, during a regional drama surrounding the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed Riyadh forced Hariri, who is visiting the kingdom, to step down.
“Our region, the Middle East, is extremely different from America.
In our region, there are no [other] democracies. Our leaders need to be forceful in order to exist,” Bennett said.
Iran’s “tentacles” are spreading across the Middle East to form a “Shia crescent” in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the minister said. He also suggested that if the Palestinians were to establish their own state in the West Bank, Iran would infiltrate it as well. The Islamic Republic’s goal is to “dominate other countries.”
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The Trump administration’s efforts, however, to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are genuine, Bennett maintained, even if he doesn’t always agree with the American position.
“Everyone is putting forth a serious effort for peace,” he said. “We want peace.”
Even the Iranians prefer to avoid war, according to Bennett.
“No one seeks war. Iran is war-weary. They feel comfortable sending other soldiers to die for them, but they don’t want to see their own soldiers dying,” he said, referencing Iran’s use of Hezbollah and other Shia proxies to combat Sunni groups throughout the Middle East.
Bennett rejected the notion that he supports withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.
“The goal is to fix the deal,” he said.
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