Top-level security cabinet meets for 1st time in 2 months, amid warnings on Iran

Ministers gather as government remains paralyzed by political deadlock; officials are reportedly concerned that Tehran could orchestrate strike on Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening of the 22nd Knesset in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening of the 22nd Knesset in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The high-level security cabinet convened Sunday for the first time in two months, amid cryptic warnings by Israeli leaders in recent days of a growing security threat from Iran.

Members of the top forum met at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. The ministers were not informed ahead of time what would be on the agenda, Channel 12 television news reported.

In recent days, Hebrew media has quoted unnamed security officials warning of the rising threat of an attack orchestrated by Iran.

On Friday, Channel 13 news was the latest to report concerns that Tehran, emboldened by military successes against the US and Saudi Arabia, would seek to attack the Jewish state.

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin have mentioned crucial security needs in recent days as they called for the formation of a broad unity government.

The Blue and White party’s Gabi Ashkenazi, newly appointed head of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also spoke Thursday of “many challenges in the security realm, some known to all and some that are only discussed behind closed doors.”

On Saturday evening Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman repeated his call for Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz to form a unity government, citing a “national emergency, economic challenges and security threats from south, north and further away.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaks to press while touring the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv on election day, September 17, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Liberman noted in a Facebook post that the country on Sunday will mark 46 years since the Yom Kippur War, the most traumatic conflict in the nation’s history and one in which the country was caught off guard by its enemies, and said it was imperative to remember its legacy “of leadership and love of country.”

“We are at a political crossroads,” Liberman wrote. “The election results can lead to only one conclusion — the people want unity… I once again call on Prime Minister Netanyahu and MK Benny Gantz: Show responsibility and leadership, set aside your egos and stops the games, spin and time-wasting.”

Netanyahu, during a speech Thursday at the swearing-in of the new Knesset, also called for a “broad national unity government,” saying the country’s security challenges demanded political stability.

“No one faces as many challenges as we face, no other country. And democracies that don’t grasp that you need to unite in a time of danger suffer a heavy price,” he said.

“This isn’t spin, it’s not a whim, this is not ‘Netanyahu trying to scare us,’” he said. “Anyone who knows the situation knows that Iran is getting stronger and is attacking around the world, saying clearly, ‘Israel will disappear.’ They believe it, they are working toward it, we need to take them seriously.”

Blue and White party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid at a faction meeting at the opening of the 22nd Knesset, on October 03, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

But Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah rejected claims of an emergency, saying: “There is no greater cynic than Netanyahu in using matter of security for political ends. Don’t believe his fear-mongering. Everything is political with him.”

Netanyahu has sought to press Blue and White to join a coalition led by him and including right-wing and Haredi parties. Gantz has so far refused to sit in a coalition with Netanyahu as long as the Likud leader faces corruption indictments, and is also unwilling to join a government comprised of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties. Blue and White has said a unity government with Likud could be formed “within an hour” if Netanyahu steps down.

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