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'Imagine what would happen if Saudi Arabia was destabilized'

Netanyahu said to urge Washington to stick by Saudi crown prince

Amid Khashoggi murder fallout, Israeli and Egyptian leaders reportedly call on Trump administration not to let incident undermine strategic relations with Riyadh

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make their way to the Oval Office for a meeting at the White House on  March 5, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make their way to the Oval Office for a meeting at the White House on March 5, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called senior American officials recently to urge that Washington not abandon its support for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid growing criticism over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, according to multiple reports.

A Thursday report in The Washington Post said Netanyahu told Trump administration officials that bin Salman was a key strategic partner and a linchpin of the alliance against Iranian encroachment in the region.

A senior Israeli official also told Channel 10, “What happened with Khashoggi’s murder is very problematic, and that’s an understatement. But we have significant interests related to Saudi Arabia. We have to ensure stability [in Saudi Arabia]. Imagine what would happen if Saudi Arabia were destabilized. It would affect the entire region.”

Netanyahu has refrained from publicly weighing in on the murder by Saudi agents of journalist and regime critic Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The murder has drawn withering criticism of Riyadh from around the world.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 23, 2018. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Israeli officials confirmed the Post’s report to the Ynet news site, saying Netanyahu urged officials in Washington not to allow the close relationship with the Saudi crown prince to be undermined by the incident.

One Israeli official said, “Saudi Arabia is a very important state in the region, and Israel and other nations have a major interest in ensuring its continued stability.”

The Post also reported that bin Salman, in conversations with the White House, has described Khashoggi as “a dangerous Islamist,” claiming he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The journalist’s family told the Post in response: “Jamal Khashoggi was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He denied such claims repeatedly over the past several years. Jamal Khashoggi was not a dangerous person in any way possible. To claim otherwise would be ridiculous.”

People hold posters picturing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and lightened candles during a gathering outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, on October 25, 2018. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 Saudi suspects detained in Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi. It is also pressing Saudi Arabia for information concerning Khashoggi’s remains, which still haven’t been found, as well as who ordered the journalist’s slaying. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also called on Riyadh to disclose the identity of an alleged local collaborator said to have been involved in disposing of Khashoggi’s body.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old columnist for The Washington Post, vanished on October 2 after entering the consulate in Istanbul to pick up paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his fiancée, who was waiting for him outside. A critic of the Saudi royal family, Khashoggi had been living in exile in the United States.

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