Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a cabinet meeting, February 17th, 2019.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
Israel’s relationship with the United States is currently stronger than it has ever been, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu’s comments come some two months before the US is expected, at long last, to roll out its Middle East peace blueprint – after the April 9 election.
Netanyahu met US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
last week at the Middle East summit in Warsaw. He said that the conference marked a “historic change” which held a great deal of significance for Israel.
“There were foreign ministers and representatives of 60 countries there – including Arab countries with whom we do not have diplomatic relations – who sat together with Israel and took a stand against Iran,” he said.
The prime minister said he told the forum that Iran’s aggression is the main factor undermining stability in the Middle East and that Israel and “the entire world” must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and stop its military buildup in Syria.
“We will continue to act constantly to ensure Israel’s security,” he said.
In this context, Netanyahu said he will travel to Moscow on Thursday to discuss the situation in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“These talks are very important and part of our continuing effort to ensure freedom of action of the State of Israel against Iran and its proxies, that declare their intention to use Syria as a front in their war to destroy Israel,” he said.
This will be the second meeting between the two leaders since Syria’s downing of a Russian intelligence plane in September, an incident Russia said Israel was indirectly responsible for and which strained Jerusalem-Moscow ties.
Netanyahu and Putin met briefly in Paris in November on the sidelines of ceremonies commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I.
“On Thursday, I will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and I will continue to strengthen the coordination mechanism in order to prevent friction between the IDF and the Russian Army,” he said.
Netanyahu also addressed comments made Saturday by Channel 13 anchor Oshrat Kotler, saying that “when you send your children to the army, they are kids; you send them to the territories and they come back as human animals – and this is the result of the occupation.”
Her comments came after a report on the five Netzah Yehuda Battalion soldiers accused of beating two handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinians suspected of helping with the escape of a terrorist who killed two of their comrades in an attack at Givat Assaf in December.
“I did not think I heard correctly yesterday when I turned on the television and heard an outrageous statement against IDF soldiers by a senior journalist, a news anchor. I would like to say that this statement is inappropriate and must be condemned – broadly and in a firm way,” he said.
Netanyahu said he was proud of the IDF and its soldiers who are “defending us and carrying out the supreme humanitarian and moral mission of defending our people and protecting our country against those who want to massacre us. The anchor’s statement is worthy of condemnation.”
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