Israeli defense chiefs head to Washington for talks on Syria

Mossad chief to lead Israeli security delegation to meet with Trump administration officials over regional threats from Iran, Syria.

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Mossad chief Yossi Cohen
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen

JTA - A delegation of Israeli defense officials will reportedly visit Washington, D.C. later this week to discuss Israel’s security needs in Syria with their American counterparts.

The talks will focus on Israel’s security needs in Syria and Lebanon and will not address President Donald Trump’s nascent push for Israeli-Arab peace negotiations, a senior White House official told the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Mossad Director Yossi Cohen will head the delegation, which will also include the chief of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, and the director of the Defense Ministry’s political-security department, Zohar Palti, Haaretz reported.

The Israeli officials will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, Trump’s special Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt and others, the White House official said.

Israel has expressed concern that a the ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia in southern Syria last month will allow Iran to gain a foothold on its northern border. At the Cabinet meeting Sunday, the Mossad’s Cohen warned that Iran, Hezbollah and other Shiite forces were amassing in the area.

“The region is changing to our detriment,” he told ministers.

Later, on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu publicly warned that “the Islamic State is exiting, Iran is coming.”

“Our policy is clear: We firmly oppose the military buildup of Iran and its proxies — primarily Hezbollah — in Syria,” he said. “And we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security.”