Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has been warning Israeli voters about the danger of Hamas for years, but when he spoke to the foreign press at Mishkenot Sha'ananim's Israel Newsmakers Forum on Tuesday, he expanded the threat to the entire world.
Netanyahu's message to the world at the event was that it is not in the best interests of the international community to treat Hamas differently than it treats Al-Qaida and other Islamic fundamentalist groups, despite the party's victory in the Palestinian election.
"Hamas is not a local organization," Netanyahu said. "It's part of a worldwide Islamic movement that is trying to liberate the state of Israel and fight a mad, historic battle with the West. Because of this, the assumption that Hamas is a leopard that can change its spots is false. Power did not domesticate the Taliban or the ayatollahs in Iran and it won't domesticate Hamas."
Netanyahu pointed at the crowd of journalists from around the world and said: "They are not really after us. They are after you. For them, Israel is the little Satan, America is the big Satan and Europe is the middle Satan."
Comparing Hamas to Iran, Netanyahu said that Israel must prevent a second Iran from emerging in the West Bank that could threaten Jordan and create a massive Islamic kingdom that could stretch from Iraq to the suburbs of Tel Aviv.
"Any territory that we give them will be used against us and already has," Netanyahu said. "Any money that we give them will be used against us."
Netanyahu accused Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government of reacting to Hamas's victory with "helplessness, weakness and confusion when we need containment and pressure." He said that if elected prime minister, he would deter Hamas by responding harshly to missile attacks, launching an American-led international public relations campaign and preventing the flow of funding that could be used to build an army or pay preachers who support terror.
A Spanish reporter embarrassed Netanyahu when he asked him a question about his failed attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Jordan in 1997.
"You tried to have the Mossad kill Khaled Mashaal, but he is now one of the major players in the region and you're probably not," the reporter said. Netanyahu responded that the foreign press should wait before writing him off, and "not all the things we seek to do are accomplished."