Official says Israeli delegation will try to persuade White House that cease-fire deal should be amended to make sure Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias are kept out of Syria
A delegation of Israeli defense officials will visit Washington later this week for talks with senior White House and American defense officials. Haaretz has learned that the delegation will be headed by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, and he will be joined by the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, as well as the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security department, Zohar Palti.
A senior White House official said that the Israeli delegation will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Power, Trump’s special Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, as well as other officials.
The White House official said that it was Greenblatt and Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who orchestrated the meeting.
“Talks will focus on Israel‘s security needs vis-a-vis Syria and Lebanon, and will not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” the White House official said. “The delegation’s arrival in Washington is a powerful sign of the trust between Israel and McMaster.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office said in response that the delegation’s departure was part of routine security talks between Israel and the U.S.
One of the main issues that the Israeli delegation is expected to discuss in the talks is the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria and its ramifications. Israel is dissatisfied with the fact that its security interests were not reflected in the draft cease-fire agreement being formulated by the United States and Russia. A senior Israeli official said the delegation was expected to try to persuade senior administration officials that parts of the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria should be amended to include clearer statements about the need to remove Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias out of Syria.
Mossad chief Cohen said in a security briefing to the government on Sunday that so far Israel‘s positions were not reflected in the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria, noting specifically the presence of Iranian forces in Syria. “In places where the presence of ISIS is limited, Iran is acting to fill the void,” he told the ministers. A few hours later, at a conference in Ashdod, Netanyahu said that Israel strongly opposes the military establishment of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria. “We will do everything necessary to maintain Israel‘s security,” Netanyahu said.