US/World News

Trump’s Middle East policy is a ‘welcome change,’ Netanyahu tells Mattis

(JTA) – The “forthright words on the part of President Trump and very forthright deeds against the use of chemical weapons by Iran’s proxy, Syria have been appreciated around the world and in our region,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis when the two met April 21 in Jerusalem. “I think this is a welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and American policy,” he said, referring to the April 7 attack in which 59 U.S. missiles hit an airport controlled by President Bashar Assad, in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to Assad. Former President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons was a “red line,” but did not order a strike on Syria following alleged uses of chemical weapons after he issued the statement.

Netanyahu also noted that Mattis had “very clear and forthright words” about Iran.

In February, Mattis called Iran “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

As for the Iran nuclear deal, the Iranians “appear to be living up to their part of the agreement,” Mattis said during a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman. The nuclear deal “continues to be in force,” he said. However, Mattis also warned “that in no way mitigates against or excuses the other Iranian activities in the region, including the war in Yemen that grinds on and what they’re doing in Syria” to keep Assad in power. “But the agreement on nuclear issues still stands and that’s all I can say about it.”

Mattis in his statement published by the Prime Minister’s Office mentioned the Iranian threat on Israel in the context of the Jewish state’s vigilance following the Holocaust. “The two dangers that face Israel and all of the other nations in the region that are trying to maintain a stable and peaceful and prosperous region are those that I’m here to discuss with the prime minister, especially the week before Holocaust remembrance,” he said in reference to Israel’s official memorial day for the genocide, which fell this year on April 23.

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