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Ex-Trump aide says Netanyahu was ‘willing to fight Iran to the last US soldier’

Israeli defense official tells Axios Israel proposed a more active role for its forces in Soleimani assassination, but US insisted on executing the drone strike

Then-US president Donald Trump (right) with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Trump's departure to Rome at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Flash90)
Then-US president Donald Trump (right) with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Trump's departure to Rome at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Flash90)

Former United States president Donald Trump expected Israel to play a more active role in the assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, a former official told the Axios news site, in a report published Wednesday.

The source, who was a senior official in the Trump administration, said then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “willing to fight Iran to the last American soldier,” during the fallout of the Quds Force commander’s killing.

Trump, speaking with journalist Barak Ravid in July, said he wouldn’t get into the details, but that he “was very disappointed in Israel having to do with that event.”

“People will be hearing about that at the right time,” he added.

Trump spoke to Ravid for the reporter’s new Hebrew-language book, “Trump’s Peace,” about the normalization deals between Israel and Arab states, which were brokered with the help of the Trump administration.

Israel reportedly provided information to the US military as the operation was underway, including tracking Soleimani’s phone, and handing the Americans other key intelligence details.

Still, an Israeli defense official told Axios that Israel proposed a more active role for its forces in the assassination. The US instead insisted on executing the drone strike.

A former White House official told the news site that Trump felt as if Netanyahu had used him, and wasn’t convinced when the Israeli prime minister tried to make amends during the signing of the normalization deals at the White House in September 2020.

Iranian Senior Revolutionary Guard commander General Qassem Soleimani attends a meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (not seen) and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, on September 18, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Netanyahu had built a close relationship with Trump and his administration, which reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and removing opposition to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

But recently revealed comments showed Trump lashing out at the former prime minister, telling Ravid that no one had helped Netanyahu more than he did, and that he therefore considered it a betrayal when Netanyahu congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory, even as Trump falsely claimed that the election had been stolen.

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