Published December 20, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized the White House’s rebuke of his country’s settlement construction as “against American values,” but praised President Obama’s decision to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.
Israel came under fire last week after a Jerusalem city official signed the final go-ahead for construction of a new housing development in east Jerusalem. Israel says east Jerusalem is part of its capital and considers Jewish housing developments there to be neighborhoods of the city, but the international community, including the U.S., does not recognize Israel's annexation of the area and considers construction there to be illegitimate settlement activity.
In a striking public rebuke last week, the Obama administration warned Israel that the new project would distance Israel from "even its closest allies" and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians.
Netanyahu, in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” called the administration’s condemnation of the project “baffling.”
"It's against the American values. And it doesn't bode well for peace," he said. "The idea that we'd have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it's anti-peace."
However, Netanyahu said he supported the Obama administration’s decision to launch airstrikes in the battle against the Islamic State, and that Israel is ready to help the U.S. in “every way that we're asked.”
Netanyahu said he believes the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, Hamas and Iran are all locked in a competition to be the dominant militant Islamist group in the Middle East. He said the greatest threat to both the U.S. and Israel is the possibility that one of the groups could “marry their mad ideologies to weapons of mass death.”
"ISIS has got to be defeated because it's doing what all these militant Islamists are trying to do. They all want to first dominate their part of the Middle East, and then go on for their twisted idea of world domination," Netanyahu said. “The difference between ISIS and Hamas and ISIS and Iran and so on is they all agree that the world should be an Islamist hill, but ... each of them wants to be the king of the hill."
Netanyahu also spoke positively about his sometimes testy relationship with Obama, saying he has a good working relationship with the president.
"I don't want to say like an old married couple, but the president said that we had-- he's had more meetings with me than with any other foreign leader,” he said. “And I think you get to a point of mutual respect. You cut to the chase very quickly. You talk about the real things openly, as befitting real allies."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.