Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that his country welcomes the change in American foreign policy heralded by President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu praised the Trump administration's more aggressive posture during a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who was visiting Israel for the first time as Pentagon chief, the Jerusalem Post reported.
"We sense a great change in the direction of American policy," Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader cited Mattis' comments on Iran and recent military action taken by the United States as evidence that the Trump administration will play a leading and positive role in the Middle East.
"We noted the very clear and forthright words, Mr. Secretary, that you had to say about Iran," Netanyahu said. "This follows very strong and forthright words on the part of President Trump, and very forthright deeds against the use of chemical weapons by Iran's proxy, Syria."
"This has been appreciated around the world and in our region," Netanyahu continued. "I think this is welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and American policy."
The prime minister said that Israel and the U.S. are bonded by "common values, in the deepest sense of the word," as well as common threats. He said those dangers are "the twin threats of militant Islam": Shi'a extremists led by Iran and Sunni extremists led by the Islamic State.
Mattis responded that both nations are committed to "passing on peace and freedom to the next generation."
"I think it's important that we remind ourselves that if good people don't band together then bad people can do a lot of damage in this world," Mattis said. "And we're committed to stopping that and doing whatever it takes to pass on peace and freedom to the next generation."
Mattis said separately on Friday there is "no doubt" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime still has chemical weapons, the Washington Examiner reported. The Pentagon chief warned Syria not to use them against the Syrian people.
"They'd be ill-advised to try to use any of that again," Mattis said during a joint press conference with Israel's defense minister. "We've made that very clear with our strikes."