Netanyahu: Don't Strengthen Iran to Weaken Islamic State

Prime minister alludes to 'less known' Israeli efforts against militants in Iraq and Syria, states Israel fully supports Obama's call for united action against IS.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a conference on counter-terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, September 11, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Thursday the West should be wary of strengthening Iran in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Speaking at the 14th annual conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Netanyahu stated that he "fully supports" U.S. President Barack Obama's call for united action against the Islamic State, adding that Israel has been part of the international effort.

"Israel is doing its part in the fight against ISIS - some of this is more known and some of this is less known," the prime minister said, suggesting that some of the efforts have been covert.

"Arab states are reevaluating their relations with Israel due to the fact we are facing the same enemies," he added.

But he cautioned the U.S. and the rest of the international community against making concessions to Iran vis-à-vis its nuclear program in order to recruit it for the fight against the Islamic State. The West should not strengthen "Shi'ite extremists," referring to Iran, in order to weaken "Sunni extremists", referring to the Islamic State, Netanyahu said.

Addressing the negotiations between the West and Iran, which are slated to resume in New York next week, Netanyahu said that a deal with Tehran would be akin to the agreement reached with Syrian President Bashar Assad over chemical disarmament.

"Iran is seeking to keep the enriched nuclear material and one day kick out the inspectors and breakout for a nuclear weapon," the prime minister said.

"If Iran gets a nuclear weapon you will see things you never imagined that can happen."

On the subject of Hamas, Netanyahu said that the Palestinian group and the Islamic State "are branches of the same tree."

"All of Israel mourned on 9\11 but in Gaza they celebrated and gave out candy - this is the moral divide," said the prime minister, who spoke on the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Netanyahu stated that Israel has to significantly increase its defense budget in the face of the growing threats to its security – especially the Islamic State. The comments were made on the backdrop of the ongoing deliberations over the 2015 state budget.

He said that Israel must amass large amounts of defense systems like the Iron Dome, while also stockpiling offensive weapons.