WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Israel’s prime minister on Wednesday sent out a belligerent rallying cry to his Arab partners at a U.S.-backed Mideast conference, saying he planned to focus on the “common interest” of confronting Iran.
Netanyahu made the comments during an off-the-cuff interview with reporters on a Warsaw street, shortly after meeting Oman’s foreign minister.
He has long used tough language against Iran. But his latest comments, which appeared to include a call for war, went beyond his standard rhetoric. Netanyahu’s office later issued a clarification, saying his remarks had been mistranslated.
The meeting with Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi was a rare public appearance by an Arab leader with Netanyahu, who frequently boasts of warming behind-the-scenes ties with the Arab world.
“From here I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran,” Netanyahu said.
“What is important about this meeting — and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those — is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran,” he added.
Although Netanyahu used the Hebrew word “milchama,” or war, his office later changed its official translation and said he was referring to a “common interest of combatting Iran.”
The U.S. has billed the conference in Warsaw as a meeting about peace and security in the Middle East. But Israel and the Gulf Arab countries are eager to keep the focus on their shared foe, Iran.
Netanyahu considers Iran to be Israel’s greatest threat, citing its frequent calls for Israel’s destruction, its suspect nuclear program and support for militant groups across the region. Israel has been active in recent months attacking Iranian targets in neighboring Syria.
By ARON HELLER, Associated Press