How Israel benefits from US media linking it to Soleimani hit – analysis 

Source: How Israel benefits from US media linking it to Soleimani hit – analysis – The Jerusalem Post

NBC reported on Saturday that “intelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of exactly when the jet carrying Soleimani took off from Damascus to Baghdad, where he was killed by a missile.

A man in uniform holds a picture of Qasem Soleimani during a protest in Tehran following his targeted assassination.  (photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)
A man in uniform holds a picture of Qasem Soleimani during a protest in Tehran following his targeted assassination.
(photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)
The initial response of some Israelis to an NBC report saying Israeli intelligence helped confirm an important detail in the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani was a simple “oy.”

And that initial “oy” was probably followed by: “This can’t be good,” and “Now the Iranians are going to want to take revenge against us, not only the Americans.”

NBC reported on Saturday that “intelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of exactly when the jet carrying Soleimani took off from Damascus to Baghdad, where he was killed by a missile fired from an American drone.

In near parallel to the NBC report, The New York Times published a story headlined “Seven Days in January: How Trump pushed US and Iran to the Brink of War,” which looked at the events leading up to, and immediately after, the Soleimani assassination.
That report made no mention of any Israeli intelligence contribution to the successful assassination of Soleimani but it did add another element of Israeli interest to the whole Soleimani puzzle: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the only world leader given advance notice of the hit.

There are many reasons to want to keep any possible Israeli intelligence involvement in the Soleimani assassination ambiguous, the main one being that Jerusalem does not want to give Iran or its proxies any need to “save face” by striking at Israeli targets to avenge the attack. But it is highly unlikely that seven words in an NBC news report are going to be the determining factor whether Hezbollah decides to fire missiles at Haifa or attack IDF soldiers patrolling the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah is not waiting for a US news outlet’s confirmation in deciding whether to take action against Israel. Its decision is based on how it thinks Israel will respond in turn and the message that Israel has sent out in an effort to deter any attack by Iran or its proxies is that Israel would respond to any action against it with a “crushing blow.”

From the minute that reports of Soleimani’s killing trickled out, there has been speculation whether Israel was in any way involved in it. The NBC report – by no means an Israeli verification – just adds another layer of speculation.Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, a former defense minister whose every word now must be weighed within the context of the election campaign, was asked in a radio interview Sunday about the US media reports whether there was something to them or whether the American media was merely trying to drag Israeli into the whole Soleimani story.

“First of all I think that anyone who talks about this is making a grave mistake,” he said. “We need to stay as far away from this story as possible. When The New York Times publishes something like that it is generally basing it on Israeli sources. I think we should check who those Israeli sources are.”

Asked if he was aiming his arrows at Netanyahu, and that Netanyahu may have had an interest at this time in it being reported that he was the only leader informed of the hit in advance, Liberman replied: “I have a lot of experience with these types of reports, particularly in The New York Times, and they always come from Israeli sources. I think it is a grave mistake. Ambiguity and silence is the best thing we can do.”

And, indeed, ambiguity and silence does seem the smartest course of action, and one that Netanyahu instructed his ministers to follow immediately after the killing.

But there is also another way to look at the US media reports as well: it shows the degree of intimacy and cooperation that exists between the US and Israel, something that from time to time it is important for both Israel’s enemies and the American public to see.

It is not necessarily bad for Israel, facing the security challenges that it does, when its enemies see the level of cooperation that exists between it and the most powerful military and intelligence power in the world. The very knowledge of that close coordination may deter reckless action against the Jewish state.

Top Israeli and US officials have spoken a great deal since US President Donald Trump’s election of an unprecedented level of security cooperation between the two countries, but usually give no examples or put any flesh on very general statements.
For instance, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said last month the “military relations we have with the United States, the freedom of action and cooperation, is extraordinary. Simply extraordinary. Sometimes you enter a room or one mission or the other and you don’t always know who is on what side. The cooperation is exceptional.”

And that coordination is also important for the US public to see, especially at a time when Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has brought into mainstream US political discourse the idea of using US aid to Israel – which is wholly military assistance – as leverage against the Israeli government. At a time when the Mideast is at its most unstable and dangerous, Sanders has made it acceptable to talk about reducing security assistance to its most reliable ally in the Mideast.

And often in the US domestic debate there is an underlying theme of “we give Israel all this money each year ($3.8 billion in annual military assistance), and what do we get for it in return?”

That the American public sees from time to time that there is a return on its investment in Israel’s security prowess is something that can help deflect calls to reduce the military aid.

For some in the US, there is a mistaken impression that this military relationship is a one-way street, and that the US gives to Israel without getting much in return. It is not. The Americans get a strong return for their investment, and that return is often in the form of critical intelligence cooperation – coming from a country with the best intelligence picture of the Mideast – that is of vital importance for American national security interests.

 

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