'US-Israel cooperation is something we've never had'

PM Netanyahu hails US-Israel ties, praises Trump for leaving Iran nuclear deal.

Hezki Baruch ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Esti Desiubov/TPS

Israel Hayom Editor in Chief Boaz Bismuth greeted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night at the inaugural Israel Hayom Forum on US-Israel relations in Jerusalem.

After a short film highlighting key points in US-Israeli cooperation since 1948, which included the US investment in the Iron Dome missile defense system in 2010, US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Trump's recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, Bismuth asked Netanyahu if there were "new peaks" eh was hoping for.

Netanyahu answered that US-Israeli cooperation was always growing.

"I'm being very careful, but the cooperation [between us] now is something we have never had," Netanyahu said.

"You've heard of the '5 I's' in US defense? Well, there is a sixth "I," and that is Israel. Israel not only receives intelligence from the US, but gives the US intelligence that is second to none. Israel is a tremendous ally of the US," Netanyahu added, while stressing that Israel did not seek "American boots on the ground."

"We don't ask America to fight for us. Can you name any other [US] ally that categorically says that? Israel is the best ally the US has," Netanyahu said.

"Israel makes technology that services not only intelligence at the government level, but in every field of human endeavor. We are in the middle of a technological revolution," the Prime Minister added.

"If Israel wasn't here, the Middle East would collapse,” Netanyahu noted, adding that “Israel "ensures the entire region remains pro-Western, pro-American.”

Netanyahu said that he was happy with the direction the region was going and that he'd like to "see more of the same, but to also institutionalize the [growing] alliance [between Israel and moderate Arab states] in such a way that it would withstand the winds of change."

Regarding the rising tensions with Iran, the Prime Minister said the Islamic Republic "received a huge gift in the nuclear deal without having to change any of its behavior.

"Within a matter of years it will be able to enrich uranium without limitations, and therefore in exchange for a temporary freeze of enrichment it would have been able to become a global nuclear power with hundreds of nuclear warheads," he continued.

"Iran also received hundreds of billions of dollars in cash and in credit, immediately after signing the deal," the Prime Minister added, "in the assumption that it would become a peace-seeking country and moderate its behavior. The exact opposite happened. It used the money to realize its terrorist ambitions."

Touching on previous US President Barack Obama, who signed the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu said, "It's always difficult to challenge the policies of an American president, but I felt compelled to do so. I spoke to two candidates, Trump and Hillary Clinton, both of them heard me out. Trump said 'This is the worst deal in the world." I'm paraphrasing, he used different language. He won the election, and walked away from the deal."

Netanyahu said that Trump's decision to walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal between western powers and Iran was as important as his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights.

"When Trump walked away from the plan, Iran tried to do two things. First, to plant themselves militarily in Syria. We refused to let that happen. We do what is necessary to prevent that," he stressed.

At the same time, Netanyahu explained, Trump is waging a "very forceful confrontation with Iran economically."

"The Iranian regime is suffering. It's trying to use its proxies to 'pin prick' in the Persian Gulf, and escalate the situation in Syria," he said. "We have to resist."

Netanyahu said that the US decision to increase sanctions on Iran was the right one, and that his decision to keep Iran from entrenching itself in Syria was "also right."

"We have to keep up the pressure, not relent," he said.

Bismuth asked Netanyahu if he was worried that nine out of the 10 participants in the US presidential debate on Wednesday favored the nuclear deal.

"When the Arabs and Israelis agree, maybe you should pay attention," Netanyahu quipped in response. "We know something about this region. Iran single greatest threat on the horizon, they must not be allowed to get nuclear weapons. Going back to the JCPOA means giving Iran nuclear weapons. I will not let that happen."

When asked what Israel must do to maintain bipartisan support in the US, Netanyahu pointed out that historically, US Democrats had been more supportive of Israel than the Republicans.

“It was [Republican President Dwight D.] Eisenhower, and the Russians, who forced Ben-Gurion out of the Sinai," he added.

As far as growing anti-Israel feeling in the US, Netanyahu said that there was still considerable support for Israel in the Democratic party, but the reason sentiment was changing had to do with America – not Israel.

Stressing the need for historical perspective, Netanyahu said that this week's historic tripartite summit in Jerusalem between Israel, the US, and Russia was "one hell of a change in our international standing."

“With the strongest alliance Israel has ever had with the US, and good relations with Russia, Israel is in a position to speak to both, and discuss ways of removing Iran from Syria, the Prime Minister said.

Asked if he believed a solution could be found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu replied, "We must address the root of the conflict. The root remains the Palestinians' stubborn refusal to recognize the Jewish state along any borders. Secondly, I think it demands a political solution. Just because a political solution is hard or must be done in stages, it shouldn't delay the important Bahrain summit. An economic basis [for peace] is important. It doesn't exempt the Palestinians from ideological change."

Netanyahu said that the economic plan rolled out in Bahrain was "very strong," and aimed to change the Palestinian economy from a welfare-based economy to one based on investment.

"It's a brilliant idea. We did it in Israel, and it worked," Netanyahu said.

"As far as the US and Israel, I truly believe, Israel has no better or greater ally than US, and the US has no better ally than Israel. It's not a slogan, it's true," he declared.