On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of ambassadors from several of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries that Israeli intelligence had prevented “several dozen major terrorist attacks” on European cities, including some 9-11 type plots that “involved civil aviation”.
“When we talk about ISIS it’s important to understand that Israel helps Europe in two fundamental ways,” the prime minister said. “The first is that we have, through our intelligence services, provided information that has stopped several dozen major terrorist attacks, many of them in European countries. Some of these could have been mass attacks, of the worst kind that you have experienced on the soil of Europe and even worse, because they involve civil aviation. Israel has prevented that, and thereby helped save many European lives,” the prime minister said, without providing details.
Netanyahu said the second manner Israel is a powerful force in the fight against global terror was closer to home; just across the southern border of Israel in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.
“ISIS is being destroyed in Iraq and Syria, but it is trying to establish an alternative territorial base in the Sinai. Israel is contributing to preventing that in myriad ways,” Netanyahu said. “In general, I would say that Israel is the most powerful indigenous force in the Middle East that fights radical Islam.”
Israel is not a NATO member but was designated in 1989 by the US government as a Major Non-NATO Ally, a status which confers a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable by non-NATO countries. In 2014 the US Congress passed the US-Israel Major Strategic Partner Act which officially placed Israel one notch above the Major Non-NATO Ally classification, adding additional support for defense. This connection to NATO was further strengthened last year when Israel opened its first office at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Netanyahu told the gathered ambassadors that Iran’s goal of “conquest and colonization of Syria” includes plans to bring into the country as many as 100,000 Shiite fighters gathered from other Muslim countries, all operating under Iranian command. Iran is a close ally and supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in the six-year civil war that has cost his country of 250,000 lives. Iran also supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and hope to meld these alliances into a landbridge to the Mediterranean. Iran has recently made several attempts at establishing military bases in Syria towards this end.
“You’ll have the son of ISIS and the grandson of al-Qaida that will be fighting this new Shiite force,” Netanyahu warned the NATO ambassadors. “Where will the spillover [of a Sunni-Shiite clash in Syria] happen? In Europe. Where will the human flow go? To Europe. Who’s preventing that right now? Israel? Right now, Israel alone. But I maintain that it’s a common interest that we have.”