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US watchful for surprise Israeli attack on Iran as nuclear crisis intensifies

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking Israel’s security hostage over his sour relations with the White House, Washington is no longer sure what to expect from Israel on Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (c)accompanied by the Chief of General Staff of the Israeli army Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi (R) visits an Israeli military base near the city of Petah Tikva, on January 30 2019. (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — Israel is increasingly concerned over Iran’s advancement on its nuclear program, yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preventing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from traveling to the United States for security consultations until he is invited to the White House.

The frosty relations between the Israeli government and the White House affect both sides. The Americans are now concerned over Israel’s next step on the Iranian file and not sure where Netanyahu is heading. 

This situation is hardly new. More than a decade ago, as Israel was debating whether to launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, the Israel air force carried out a large-scale exercise that included over 100 fighter jets, refueling, reconnaissance and support planes flying westward over the Mediterranean Sea. The route was designed to resemble an attack trajectory toward Iran, albeit in the opposite direction.

Even before the planes landed back at their base, an American marine arrived at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv with an encrypted satellite phone. He was shown into the office of then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. At the other end of the line was Ashkenazi’s Pentagon counterpart, Adm. Michael Mullen, with whom he enjoyed a particularly warm relationship. General, Mullen asked Ashkenazi at the start of the unexpected conversation, you are not going to surprise us, are you?

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