Israel, US Agree Iran and Terrorists Are Two Key Middle East Threats

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Amos Ben Gershom – GPO

United States policy in the Middle East has changed with the new Trump Administration, and Israel believes it’s for the better. That they agree on the two greatest threats to the region helps too. U.S. Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend and pointed to Iran and terrorists such as ISIS as two key dangers in the region. Those strong words from Mattis, similar ones from President Donald Trump, and the recent American missile strike on Syria in response to chemical weapons used the regime in that nation’s civil war haven’t been missed by Israel.

“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” said Netanyahu in comments with Mattis released by his office. “…This has been appreciated around the world and in our region. I think this is a welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and American policy.” Mattis made it clear that the two regional threats of Iran and ISIS aren’t risks to Israel alone.

“The two dangers that face Israel and all of the other nations in the region that are trying to maintain a stable and peaceful and prosperous region are those that I’m here to discuss with the Prime Minister, especially the week before Holocaust remembrance,” said Mattis in the Israeli press release, just days before Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

Netanyahu specifically called out ISIS and Iran in his comments, stating that the Jewish State and the U.S. “have common values and also common dangers. The common dangers are based on the twin threats of militant Islam – the Shiite extremists led by Iran and the Sunni extremists led by Daesh [also known as ISIS].”

And the Israeli leader believes it’s not just the U.S. and Israel that agree on those dangers. “We are committed to thwarting these dangers as we are committed to seize the common opportunities and great opportunities that I think are before us, Mr. Secretary, because of the understanding of many of our Arab neighbors as to the commonality of the threat but also as to the opportunities of the future,” said Netanyahu.

Mattis also met with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Israeli Ministry of Defense. In a summary of Mattis’ visit to Israel posted to the U.S. Department of Defense website, said during that meeting that the top American military official “reinforced the need for vigilance and the strongest possible cooperation to counter threats from terrorist groups and from Iran’s destabilizing activities.”

In addition, Mattis—again referencing Holocaust Memorial Day, noted “the two countries’ common determination to never allow such horrific events to recur.”

Given Iran’s comments about wiping out Israel, there’s an understandable juxtaposition of Mattis’ strong words labeling Iran in the same threat category as terrorism with his commitment to preventing another Holocaust.

During the meeting with Netanyahu that highlights the American-Israeli alliance, Mattis said the fight against the region’s dangers takes more than just one nation. “I think it’s important that we remind ourselves that if good people don’t band together then bad people can do a lot of damage in this world,” the Israeli press release quoted Mattis as saying. “And we’re committed to stopping that and doing whatever it takes to pass on peace and freedom to the next generation.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, April 23, 2017)

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