Oct 10, 2018

Scoop: Netanyahu tells Greece, Cyprus that Trump will keep heat on Turkey

Photo: Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the foreign ministers of Greece and Cyprus during meetings in Jerusalem last month that he doesn't see President Trump reducing the pressure on Turkey over the arrest of American pastor Andrew Brunson or an improvement in U.S.-Turkey relations in the near future, Israeli officials and Western diplomats told me.

Why it matters: Greece and Cyprus are two of Turkey's main adversaries. Israel has its own crisis with Turkey after the government in Ankara asked the Israeli ambassador to leave the country over violence in Gaza. And Netanyahu played a role in Trump's efforts to release Brunson when he agreed to Trump's request to release a Turkish citizen detained in Israel. As a result of the deal, which didn't lead to Brunson's release and led to U.S. sanctions against Turkey, Netanyahu has good knowledge of Trump's thinking on the issue.

  • The Israeli officials and Western diplomats who were briefed on Netanyahu's meeting with the Greek and Cypriot foreign ministers said he stressed he doesn't think there will be any progress in solving the U.S.-Turkey crisis before next month's midterm elections because Brunson's case is important to many evangelical voters.

In the meetings, Netanyahu spoke very critically about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the Israeli officials and Western diplomats, Netanyahu said he is pessimistic and concerned about the economic situation in Turkey because Erdogan is making irrational economic decisions.

  • Netanyahu said: "There is a systemic problem in Turkey. Erdogan calls me Hitler every two weeks — I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel [regarding Turkey's future]."

More from the meetings:

  • The ongoing civil war in Syria also pushed Turkey to get a reconciliation deal with Israel two years ago, according to Netanyahu. He told the Greek and Cypriot ministers that after the reconciliation deal his aides used to speak to Erdogan's closest adviser Ibrahim Kalin every two weeks about the situation in Syria. "But today we don't even have intelligence exchanges with Turkey about Syria," Netanyahu added.
  • Netanyahu also said he was concerned about possible Turkish moves against gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. U.S. companies work in this region with Greece, Cyprus and Israel. Netanyahu said: "Erdogan is rash and unexpected. I am pessimistic. It is an oxymoron that a NATO member like Turkey buys S-400 missiles from Russia. … I am also concerned about Turkey buying F-35 jets from the U.S."

Go deeper

America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 25 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."