Israeli lawmakers praise US for killing Iranian ‘arch-terrorist’ Soleimani

MKs from across political spectrum commend Trump for assassination seen as game changer for Jewish state, but MK in Arab-majority party denounces ‘American thuggery’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting, at his office in Jerusalem, December 1, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting, at his office in Jerusalem, December 1, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum united Friday in praising the US strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force — with the exception of the Joint List, which primarily represents Arab Israelis, which denounced the operation.

The overnight airstrike on a pair of cars at Baghdad’s airport killed Soleimani, a major player in placing Iranian troops and pro-Iran proxies in Syria. Other senior members of a pro-Iran militia in Iraq were also killed.

“I congratulate [US] President [Donald] Trump and the entire Middle East on the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani,” said Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid. “He planned and led deadly terror attacks from Damascus to Buenos Aires and is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent civilians. He got exactly what he deserved.”

“The Iranian regime is a terrorist regime, and when faced with terror we must act with force and determination. All those involved in Iran’s industry of terror should know that their life is at risk,” Lapid added.

Blue and White leaders Yair Lapid (R) and Moshe Ya’alon at a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, tweeted: “The world in general, and the Middle East in particular, has been freed from a mass murderer who disseminated terror and death in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Yemen, Gulf states and many other areas in the world. Good riddance!”

MK Keti Shitrit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party praised the “elimination of an arch-terrorist, the biggest terrorist in the Middle East. The US has landed a hard and significant blow on Iran. We have woken up to a new Middle East.”

In this March 27, 2015, file photo provided by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani prays in a religious ceremony at a mosque in the residence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

All ministers who are part of the high-level security cabinet were instructed not to give media interviews in the immediate aftermath of the operation, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called a situation assessment with the heads of the defense establishment at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu was in Greece Friday morning after signing a major deal for a gas pipeline the previous day. The Prime Minister’s Office said the premier was receiving constant security updates, and that for the time being there was no change to his schedule. He was meeting Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.

Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom told Army Radio: “There are more senior Iranian generals, but there is no Iranian general with greater influence. He did whatever he liked and was very close to [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei.”

Blue and White MK Ram Ben-Barak speaks at a cultural event in the central town of Shoham on August 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90 )

Blue and White MK Ram Ben-Barak, a former deputy Mossad head, told Army Radio that Soleimani’s killing was on the same scale as Israel’s targeted killing in 2008 of Imad Mughniyeh, the deputy commander of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Amir Peretz, head of the center-left Labor-Gesher party, said Soleimani “deserved to die,” thanking the US and Trump for the move. But he also criticized the government for under-funding a plan to defend Israel from Iranian reprisals by building more bomb shelters and reinforcing public buildings, urging its implementation “before it’s too late.”

Labor-Gesher MK Omer Barlev commended Trump and the US military on “the successful execution of the elimination of the head of the snake, Qassem Soleimani.”

“In recent decades he was the main culprit in terror attacks against us around the world, in cultivating Hezbollah and in the Iranian entrenchment in Syria. This is a better day for mankind,” he added.

MK Moti Yogev of the right-wing Jewish home wrote: “Congratulations to the US and its president Trump for taking out the greatest instigator of terror in the Middle East in recent years. Soleimani’s killing brings us to a better world.”

Knesset Member Ofer Cassif (Hadash-Ta’al) at the Knesset plenum ahead of the opening session of the new government, April 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

But MK Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish lawmaker representing the predominantly Arab Joint List, lambasted the move.

“Whoever opens champagnes today doesn’t understand that killing Soleimani can lead to an attack on Israel,” he tweeted. “If American thuggery costs Israeli lives it will be on Trump’s hands and his friend, the fugitive criminal Netanyahu.”

Fellow Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman similarly commented that “the Trump administration is endangering the lives of all people in the Middle East — Iranians, Israelis and everyone in between. No to war!”

An Israeli ski resort near the Syrian border that was the site of a previous missile attack was closed to visitors Friday, amid fears of Iran exacting revenge on Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had ordered the Mount Hermon Ski resort in the Golan Heights shuttered for the day “in light of a situational assessment.”

Israeli officials had previously expressed concern that Iran or its proxies in Syria could fire missiles at Israel as revenge on the US, as tensions simmer.

“There is a possibility — the chances are not high, but it exists — that the Iranians could harm Israel and drag us into this,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio on Wednesday, referring to previous US strikes on a pro-Iran militia earlier this week. “It must be clear to them that we will respond with great force to any attack.”

Additionally, the Foreign Ministry and security officials announced a heightened alert in Israeli diplomatic missions around the world for fear of Iranian attempts at revenge, Hebrew-language media reported.

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