Despite US skepticism, Liberman presses ‘Hamas is ISIS’ equation in DC

Foreign minister visits Washington, asks Kerry to lift US travel warning to Israel which was issued during Gaza war.

Kerry, Liberman meet in Washington  (photo credit: JORDAN SILVERMAN)
Kerry, Liberman meet in Washington
(photo credit: JORDAN SILVERMAN)
Despite the US State Department’s insistence on not drawing comparisons between Hamas and Islamic State, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman pressed the point during a meeting Wednesday night in Washington with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Liberman, according to his office, told Kerry that the fight against terrorism is the most important struggle in the world today, and that there is no difference between types of terrorism.
He again said Israel supports the United States’ effort to put together a wide coalition against Islamic State, and will help the US if asked, though he said Jerusalem is well aware of the sensitivity of Israel’s involvement to others the US is trying to get involved in the coalition.
“Hamas’s terrorist activities against Israel, as well as against residents of Gaza, are no different than the terrorism of Islamic State,” he said. “The difference is only in terminology and the way they use the media.”
Liberman – echoing an argument Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is using extensively – said that at the end of the day, the goals of Islamist terrorism is the same: the destruction of Western civilization.
Therefore, he said, just as it is impossible to conduct a dialogue with Islamic State, so too is it impossible to talk to Hamas.
“As long as Hamas controls Gaza, there will be neither peace nor security, and anyone interested in promoting an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must first bring about an end to the terrorist rule in the Palestinian Authority territories,” he said.
While Netanyahu has made the argument consistently that Hamas and Islamic State are simply different branches of the same “poisonous tree,” the world – including Washington – does not necessarily accept the argument.
When asked in late August about Netanyahu’s asserting that Hamas and Islamic State are the same, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf rejected the premise.
“I think by definition they are two different groups,” she said.
“They have different leadership, and I’m not going to compare them in that way… I’ll let him [Netanyahu] speak for himself, but I’m not going to use that comparison.”
The two groups are “quite different in some ways,” she said.
Liberman told Kerry that the efforts to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons are part of the overall struggle against terrorism, “since Iran is the number one exporter of terrorism in the world.”
If Iran gets nuclear arms, he said, the Middle East will enter a dizzying arms race that will destabilize it even worse than what is happening now.
Meanwhile, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, amplified the point, saying at a pre-Rosh Hashana event he hosted that, “for all the concern about ISIS [Islamic State] – and we should be concerned – leaving Iran as a threshold nuclear power is 1,000 times more dangerous.”
Dermer said that, for the first time ever, the “leading powers of the Arab world see their primary interests aligned with Israel’s,” a reference to the degree to which Egypt and Saudi Arabia share with Israel concern about Iran and Islamic radicalism, be it Sunni or Shi’ite.
“This alignment has come into sharper focus thanks to both the radical Shi’a axis led by Iran and the radical Sunni axis, which includes the likes of ISIS, al-Qaida, Hamas, Boko Haram, and others,” he said.
The best evidence of this “realignment of interests” is the fact that during Operation Protective Edge, “protests against Israel were stronger in Europe than in the Middle East,” he said.
Dermer said that one of the country’s greatest challenges and opportunities in the coming year will be “to find an effective way to translate this commonality of interests into a sustainable process that can build bridges between Israel and the broader Arab world.”