ROGER HERTOG FOR THE HUDSON INSTITUTE: So let's move to a question on foreign policy. So in 2015, Bret Stephens from The Wall Street Journal wrote what I thought was one of the most powerful articles called "Israel Alone." The theme was that Israel needed to develop its own grand strategy and not be so dependent on the U.S. "In a word," Stephens said, "the Israelis haven't y et figured out that what America is isn't what America was. They need to start thinking about what comes next," end of quote.
Once again, you have certainly been on the forefront of real leadership in thinking about what comes next, deepening relationships with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Greece, China, Africa. But my question is about Russia.
You've visited Moscow five times in the past 15 months. News reports...
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: No, four.
NETANYAHU: Actually, I think three and one meeting in Paris.
HERTOG: Okay. ...I think everyone here understands what Israel's interest is in building a stronger relationship with Russia. My question is, what is Russia's interest in building a stronger relationship with Israel?
NETANYAHU: I think Russia has a variegated interest. First interest is to make sure that militant Islam doesn't penetrate and destabilize Russia. There are many, many millions of Muslims in Russia, including in greater Moscow, I think it’s up to 2 million. And the concern that Russia has, which many other countries have, is that these populations would be radicalized. So I think that explains part, not all, but part of what Mr. Putin is doing in Syria, I think they ’d like to cut it at the source, as do others, obviously, the United States would like to do it, and the other countries participating in the coalition.
So the first thing is block militant Islam at its source, and especially the Daesh phenomenon. For that they make strange alliances.
And we, I’ve said to President Putin head on, the last thing we want to see, fighting Daesh is fine and Israel's capabilities are not unimportant here, but, you know, we don't want to see in the aftermath in Syria, whether with an agreement or without an agreement, we don't want to see an Iranian military presence, we don't want to see Shi'ite militias which Iran is organizing from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, and we certainly don't want to see Iranian game-changing weapons being transferred through Syrian territory to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
And when we see it, we block it. We do not allow these transfers to go through if we can see them. We do not allow Iran to form a second terror front on our borders. And we act against that.
And I said, when I went to see him, you know, about a year ago, when he put his military forces in Syria, I said, look, this is our policy, these are my red lines and I'll act on them. We have a choice. We can coordinate in order not to crash and clash with each other. I said we can actually have our forces shoot down each other's planes -- I think a few weeks later something happened to that effect, not with Israel -- or we can avoid it.
So periodically, we have to sort of tighten the bolts because not everything that is said at the top necessarily reaches the bottom levels, the field levels. They do on the Israeli side, but they don't necessarily always do so on the other side.
And the second thing is we want to avoid a clash. What is Mr. Putin's interests? Definitely he doesn't want to have that happen.
The third interest, I think, is that he wants technology. He's interested in technology and Israel is a global source of technology in many areas that are of interest to Russia, agriculture, dairy production, you name it, the standard fare.
So for all these reasons and also, you know, there's a cultural, a human bridge. We have a million Russian speakers in Israel. These and other reasons, I think, inform Russia's policies. And I think it's very important that we have this relationship.
But I want to comment on the premise of your question. First of all, I don't think there's a substitute or an alternative for Israel's tremendous alliance with the United States. This is...
This is the first alliance and the irreplaceable alliance, and I'll tell you why. We are having the flourishing of our relations with many countries around the world. And those relationships are based on shared interests. With the United States, we certainly have shared interests, but it's the one alliance we have, and there may be one or two others, but nothing like this, that is based on shared values.
And if you track, as the Gallup poll does every year, just keeps a tracking poll, you can see this develop over time. It's quite amazing. And you see the support of the American public for Israel. It's up to 71 percent right now. I think the Palestinians get about 18 percent. It's flat, like the EKG of a dead person. And that's fine, I don't have a problem with it. But we are going up and up and up. And I have to tell you, and this may come as a shock, but it's gone up in my tenure, including in the last year.
Seventy-one and I think it’s 19 gives you 90, and there's still room to go. But this is the source of this tremendous alliance. It's the identification of the American people that Israel is like the United States and the United States is like Israel. And this is one of the few areas, the only area that I agree with the militant Islamists who say you are them and they are you. On this one, they are right. This is a powerful alliance.
The other alliances, the other relations that we have are basically two things and they appear in our relations with Russia, as they appear in our relations with India, with China, with Japan, you know, the "small" powers of Asia, with Africa, with Vietnam, with Singapore.
Prime Minister Lee just visited Israel. Even though we've had relations with them for many decades, he just came. Japan just concluded, is now concluding with us a protection of investment deal, very important for Japanese investors because they're very conservative, but they're doing that.
With China we're negotiating a free trade area. We've wanted it for many years, but they came to us this year. And the same thing is happening in the eastern Mediterranean with Turkey, with whom we've no rmalized relations, Greece, and Cyprus with whom we have a special relationship.
The same thing is true with the countries of Africa. I've just come from a tremendous meeting. You know, I've been there, Sara and I were there about two months ago. It was an unforgettable and moving visit to four African countries. Now we've even had many, many more African leaders who came to a conference on Israel's technology, in the United Nations. We showed them everything, water, hy droponics, energy, health -- you want to hear this? Painless circumcision against the spread of AIDS. Talk about cutting-edge technology!
I was amazed.I didn’t know this.
And Latin America, Argentina, Mr. Macri called me up right after he was elected and said “I want to meet you.” We met in Davos in Switzerland. He said I'm changing the policy. Same thing is happening with, I predict it's going to happen in Brazil now, but it's happening throughout Latin America.
Why are these countries coming to us? T and T: Terror and Technology. Israel is a global power in fighting terrorism because of our intelligence and other proven capabilities.
Israel is a global power in technology. All countries need technology for the reasons I mentioned before, a few I didn’t. But the future truly belongs to those who innovate. So because of this confluence of security and technology, countries are coming to Israel, including Russia, including other countries, many other countries. And that's changing fundamentally our position in the world.
I said today at the U.N. that I predict that in 10 years, I think it’ll happen before, the automatic majorities in the U.N. are going to disappear. The automatic majority rests on the 54 countries of the African block. And the African countries are coming to us every day, including today. So I think that's going to change, and it's going to present a problem to a future Israeli prime minister. How will he give a speech applauding the U.N....
...but he or she will get over it as I did today. So I think that this explains all the countries, but it doesn't explain the United States.
The United States is something else. It is the relationship that I and the people of Israel most treasure. It transcends politics. It's expressed in the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], record MOU that we just signed. And I'm deeply appreciative of the action that was taken by President Obama. I know that it's supported across the board, bipartisan support. This is very powerful and irreplaceable and it will continue.
THIS PORTION OF THE NETANYAHU'S INTERVIEW AT THE HUDSON INSTITUTE BEGINS AT 28:35
This is a transcript of remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks at the Hudson Institute forum on 23 September 2016. The full transcript of his entire dialogue there is available from the Hudson Institute at http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.hudson.org/files/publications/20160923NetanyahuEventTranscript.pdf