Israeli official says Khashoggi death “despicable”, but Iran greater challenge

An Israeli official broke on Friday with his government’s reticence on the October killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calling it “despicable”.

In his remarks to Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz also said that cementing ties with Gulf states in the struggle against Iran was Israel’s overriding concern.

Steinitz did not explicitly say whether his views were those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which has been reticent in commenting on the case.
Asked about Khashoggi’s death, Steinitz said: “It was a despicable action. It’s worthy of all reproach. This was a civilian, a journalist, not a terrorist.”

He went on to say, however, that Israel’s struggle against Iran was more pressing.

“We have a threat that can become an existential threat – the threat of a nuclear Iran, the threat of terror, the threat of spreading through Syria and Lebanon.

“Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, are our allies in recent years against the spread of Iran and against the Iranian nuclear threat,” he said.

Netanyahu on Thursday asked senior officials in the Trump White House to continue supporting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman following the murder Khashoggi.

Citing U.S. officials, the report stated that Netanyahu described the Crown Prince as a “strategic ally” in the Middle East.

The report said that a similar message was conveyed to the White House by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.

Netanyahu recently visited Oman, a Gulf country that had not hosted an Israeli Prime Minister since the 1990’s, in a sign of the warming ties between Israel and Arab monarchies in the Gulf.

On his way to Oman, the Prime Minister’s plane flew over Saudi Arabia.

In addition, there were a number of reports in recent months about an increase in Israeli-Saudi intelligence cooperation.

Saudi Arabia, and bin Salman, have come under heavy criticism for their opaque stalling in the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance and death.

The kingdom has also changed its narrative several times since the case first received public notice.

On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators urged U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend negotiations with Saudi Arabia on a potentially lucrative atomic energy agreement over the murder.

Also Wednesday, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor’s office said Khashoggi was suffocated as soon as he entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate on Oct. 2 in a pre-planned killing, and his body was then dismembered and disposed of.

It also said in a statement that no concrete results were reached in chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan’s talks in Istanbul this week with Saudi public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb.

On Oct. 27, CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly heard an audio recording of the Saudi journalist’s death.

Haspel traveled to Turkey to review intelligence about the Khashoggi incident.

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor held talks overnight with Turkish intelligence officials over the investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Demiroren news agency said.

Israel is concerned that the international pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents will destabilise the Sunni kingdom and the Middle East as whole, Senior Israeli officials tell me.(Reuters/NAN)