Jan 6, 2020

Netanyahu tells Security Cabinet Israel must not be dragged into Soleimani killing

Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Security Cabinet ministers Monday that the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was carried out solely by the U.S. and that Israel was not involved in any way and must not be dragged into the escalating conflict, two ministers who attended the meeting told me.

Why it matters: Like other countries in the region, Israel is concerned that Iran will retaliate against it in order to avenge the killing of Soleimani.

  • Since Soleimani was killed last week, Netanyahu’s office ordered Cabinet ministers not to speak to the press about the issue in order to prevent public statements that might create the impression Israel was involved in the operation.

Details: According to the two ministers who attended the meeting, Netanyahu said, “The killing of Soleimani is a U.S. event, not an Israeli event, and we should stay out of it."

  • Netanyahu told ministers that the only thing they can say to the media if they are asked about the Soleimani killing is that Israel supports the U.S. and its right to defend itself.

The big picture: The director of Mossad and the head of military intelligence told ministers during the meeting that for now, the probability of an Iranian retaliatory attack against Israel is low and that "Israel stayed in a distance from the incident," ministers told me.

  • The intelligence chiefs told the Cabinet that Iran will start developing its retaliation on Tuesday, when the period of national mourning for Soleimani's death is over.

Go deeper: Saudi envoy arrives in Washington amid fear of U.S.-Iran war

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Ripples from Soleimani strike will be felt for years to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Tom Stoddart Archive/Getty Contributor, Adam Glickman/Underwood Archives/Getty Contributor, Mehdi Ghasemi/Getty Contributor, NurPhoto/Getty Contributor

The killing of Qasem Soleimani unleashed immediate fears of war — even of World War III — but if no further shots are fired, Thursday's airstrikes in Baghdad will nonetheless generate momentous consequences.

The big picture: Iran has lost its best military strategist, and America has eliminated a man it saw as a singularly destructive actor in the region. But the current U.S. concerns aren't limited to where and when Iran will strike back.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Netanyahu rejected an Omani proposal for Israel-Iran talks in 2013

Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Sultan of Oman in Muscat, Oman, Oct. 26, 2018. Photo: Israeli Prime Ministry Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In mid-2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal from the Sultanate of Oman to mediate a back channel between Israel and Iran, believing it would legitimize the secret U.S.-Iran talks that ultimately led to the 2015 nuclear deal, according to four former Israeli officials involved in the negotiations.

Why it matters: Knowledge of the dramatic Omani initiative had until now been restricted to a small group of Israeli officials. When he came into office in 2009, Netanyahu banned the Israeli Mossad from engaging in any direct or indirect talks with the Iranians without his clear approval, Israeli officials told me. Such an order doesn’t exist for any other country in the world.

Go deeperArrowFeb 2, 2020 - World

Netanyahu slows annexation push as White House message shifts

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer plans to bring annexations in the West Bank before his Cabinet for a vote in the coming days, after being urged to slow down by the White House.

Why it matters: Netanyahu seemed to receive the green light he was looking for yesterday to go ahead with annexations of all Israeli settlements and much of the Jordan Valley — and he planned to act quickly. Now, he's taking a step back.

Go deeperArrowJan 29, 2020