Israeli official: Jewish state not behind helicopter crash

‘We won’t shed a tear’: Israeli MKs react coldly to Raisi’s death, as government mum

Far-right MK: Iran leader who threatened Israel with annihilation now ‘a grain of dust in history’; TV station sorry after falling for joke that pilot was Mossad agent ‘Eli Kopter’

Handout picture of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on April 2, 2024. (Iranian Presidency/AFP)
Handout picture of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on April 2, 2024. (Iranian Presidency/AFP)

As news broke of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Monday, Israeli politicians reacted with indifference, while an unnamed official told the media Jerusalem was not involved in the helicopter crash that killed him.

“It wasn’t us,” the Israeli official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

There was no immediate official Israeli government reaction to his death.

However, MK Avigdor Liberman, chair of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu party, said Israel did not expect Raisi’s death to make any difference to Iran’s policies in the region.

“For us, it does not matter, it won’t affect Israel’s attitude [to Iran]. Iran’s policies are set by the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei],” he told the Ynet news site.

“However, there was no doubt that the president was a brutal man. We won’t shed a tear,” he added.

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman MK Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, on March 11, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right coalition MK Avi Maoz of the ultraconservative Noam party, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, boasted in a statement: “Only less than a month ago, he threatened that ‘if Israel attacks, nothing will be left of it,’ and now he is a grain of dust in history.”

Raisi, a hardliner long seen as a potential successor to Khamenei, was killed in a helicopter crash in a mountainous northwestern region near the Azerbaijan border, officials and state media confirmed on Monday.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter that crashed on Sunday carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, along with seven others, was found early on Monday after a 15-hour search in foggy weather conditions.

One day after Hamas’s devastating October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, Raisi hailed the “legitimate defense of the Palestinian nation” and met with leaders of terror groups. The late president has repeatedly praised Hamas and threatened Israel’s annihilation, but denied Tehran had a direct role in the attack.

Rabbi David Chai Hacohen, the prominent head of a religious Zionist yeshiva in Bat Yam, told his students to omit the Tachanun prayer on Monday. Tachanun is a solemn prayer recited by observant Jews on weekdays but which is skipped on happy days and Jewish festivals.

“The president was a very special hater of Israel and the greatest among the Iranians,” he said, calling his death “good news for the people of Israel,” in comments reported by the Israel National News site.

According to the report, his yeshiva organized celebratory prayers and dancing for Monday.

Making light of Raisi’s death, a satirical X page spoofing the Mossad spy agency posted a photo implying a Mossad agent named “Eli Kopter” had piloted the chopper.

“Raisi: are you sure this helicopter is safe? Pilot Eli Kopter: absolutely,” the post read, just one of many Israeli posts online following Raisi’s accident that invoked the famous pun.

Reporter Daniel Haïk, of the French-language edition of Israeli satellite news network i24news, appeared to fall for the “Eli Kopter” online joke, reporting it as a rumor and citing a post on an Arabic-language telegram group claiming that the pilot had worked for the Mossad. While not stating it as fact, he said: “Is it true or false, we don’t know.”

After drawing mockery online, the station later apologized and vowed “to do everything possible so that mistakes of this type do not happen again.”

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office ordered a tightening of morality laws, oversaw a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Before becoming president, Raisi held various positions inside the judiciary under the purview of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As a prosecutor, and at the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, he sat on the committee that sentenced thousands of political prisoners to death.

The executions earned him the moniker “Butcher of Tehran,” and he was subsequently subjected to sanctions by the United States and to condemnation by the United Nations and international human rights organizations.

From 2006 until his death, Raisi served on the Assembly of Experts, a body that appoints and supervises the supreme leader.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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