Mossad head Yossi Cohen has flown to the US with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the crisis in ties with Russia, in the aftermath of last week’s downing of a Russian plane by Syrian anti-aircraft fire during an Israeli airstrike.
Army Radio said that Cohen was headed to Washington to meet with senior US officials about Russia’s decision to send S-300 advanced surface-to-air missiles within two weeks to Syria, which both Jerusalem and Washington have warned would further destabilize the region and increase already high tensions.
The Kan national broadcaster, meanwhile, claimed Cohen would join Netanyahu in New York and discuss Iran’s involvement in the Middle East with a number of officials from other countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The reports of Cohen’s trip followed an almost three-hour meeting of the security cabinet Tuesday during which Netanyahu warned ministers to remain silent on the Russian affair, Hadashot news reported.
A statement after the meeting said the Security Cabinet “instructed the IDF to continue to take action against attempts by Iran to establish a military presence in Syria while continuing the security coordination with Russia.” It said ministers “share in the sorrow of the families in Russia and of the Russian people over the loss of the Russian air crew members as a result of the irresponsible action of the Syrian military.”
Following the meeting, Netanyahu left for New York for the UN General Assembly, where he will give a speech and also meet with US President Donald Trump.
Russia blamed Israeli actions for the downing, by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, of the plane, in which all 15 Russian serviceman aboard were killed. The Israel Defense Forces has maintained the plane was shot down due to indiscriminate Syrian fire and vowed to continue targeting Iranian weapons shipments in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had informed Netanyahu of the decision to provide Syria with the S-300 system in a phone call Sunday.
In response, according to a statement by Netanyahu’s office, “The prime minister said providing advanced weapons systems to irresponsible actors will magnify dangers in the region, and that Israel will continue to defend itself and its interests.”
In his call with Netanyahu, Putin said he disagreed with the Israeli version of events concerning the downing of the Russian plane.
“The information provided by the Israeli military… runs counter to conclusions of the Russian defense ministry,” the Kremlin said of the content of Putin’s remarks in the call, adding that the actions of the Israeli pilots had led to the plane being targeted by Syrian air defense systems.
“The Russian side proceeds from the fact that the actions by the Israeli air force were the main reason for the tragedy,” a statement said.
Netanyahu’s office said Monday night that, in the call, he had “expressed his confidence in the credibility of the IDF probe and its conclusions, and stressed once again that responsibility for the unfortunate incident lay with the Syrian army that brought down the plane, and with Iran, whose aggression destabilizes [the region].”
At the same time, it said, Netanyahu had “once again expressed his condolences for the deaths of the Russia soldiers.”
The statement added that the two leaders agreed to “continue talks between professional teams and coordination between the armies through military channels.”