In a hard-hitting speech to the UN General Assembly Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanu denounced the militant Palestinian faction Hamas as the equivalent of Islamic State Sunni extremists who have murdered their way across the Middle East. And he lumped Iran’s Shiite clerical regime with a conglomerate of terrorist groups seeking Islamic world domination.
“ISIS (The Islamic State) and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” he said. “ISIS and Iraq share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control.”
He added, “the Nazis believed in a master race, militant Islamists believe in a master faith.”
Israel has been widely criticized for its actions in a 50-day war against Hamas in Gaza, which it says was necessary to end rocket attacks into Israel by Hamas.
The more than 2,100 casualties in the densely populated strip brought accusations of indiscriminate bombing and shelling, denounced as “genocide” by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in an earlier UN speech.
Netanyahu hit back at Abbas, saying he was responsible for “war crimes” committed by coalition partner Hamas. He said that Israel had warned Palestinians in advance of attacks and “was doing everything to minimize casualties, Hamas was doing everything to maximize civilian casualties.”
Dramatizing the point by holding up an image of what he said was a Hamas rocket launcher in an area near children, Netanyahu added that the militants —who won a parliamentary election in 2006 — “cynically used Palestinian civilians” as shields by stockpiling rockets in mosques and even hospitals and firing from populated areas.
Netanyahu offered no new initiatives for peace with the Palestinians, but stressed that any territorial compromise must leave Israel able to defend itself.
The thrust of his speech was to rally the international community against both Hamas and Iran, which he said shared the global aims of the Islamic State, carrying out dozens of terrorist attacks outside its borders.
If Iran’s nuclear program went unchecked, he said, “the world’s most dangerous regime in the world’s most dangerous region would obtain the world’s most dangerous weapon.”
Instead of a peace plan, Netanyahu suggested a regional security accord with Arab neighbours who have a common goal of defeating terrorism. The spread of terrorism, he said, presented “a historic opportunity” for co-operation.
Israel was not the only country attempting to reshuffle the diplomatic deck after the Islamic State’s rise.
Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Al-Moallem, told the General Assembly earlier that those battling terrorism — the West and former Arab enemies — were now fighting on the same side as the Assad regime, something that gives the West pause.
Nor did Moallem protest airstrikes on the Islamic State inside Syria by a U.S.-led coalition, but warned they would not succeed unless coupled with an end to support for funding and training “terrorist groups.”
In a speech aimed at positioning the pariah state in the fold of counter-terrorism, he said “it is due time to pool all our efforts against this terrorism, since imminent danger is surrounding everyone and no country is immune to it.”
Syria is ready for a political solution including “dialogue with all honourable national opposition members opposing terrorism in Syria,” he said, pointing to a widely disputed presidential election as proof that the government of Bashar Assad had renewed legitimacy to negotiate.
The war in Syria began in 2011 after the Assad regime attacked protesters, whom it claimed were foreign terrorists. Since then unrest spiralled and the Islamic State made major gains. More than 191,000 people have died, 2 million have fled as refugees and at least 6 million are internally displaced.