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January 8, 2020 10:50 am

Israel’s Partisan Divide Finds a Bridge on the Death of Soleimani

avatar by Dov Lipman / JNS.org

    From left: Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, shake hands at the memorial ceremony for the late President Shimon Peres, at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, on Sept. 19, 2019. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

JNS.org – The US airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has fueled unending political divisions in the United States. Republicans have largely hailed the decision by US President Donald Trump, while many Democrats have raised concern over regional blowback, with some accusing the president of using the strike to distract from his upcoming Senate impeachment trial. However, even the Democrats who disagree with how the killing transpired agree that Soleimani was a man with much blood on his hands, including Americans.

While the Soleimani strike may be the subject of debate in the United States, in Israel, it’s a very different story.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting that “President Trump is deserving of all esteem for taking determined, strong and quick action.”

He noted that Soleimani “brought about the death of many American citizens, and many other innocents in recent decades and at the present. Soleimani initiated, planned and carried out terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and beyond.”

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The prime minister said that “Israel fully stands alongside the US in the just struggle for security, peace and self-defense.”

It comes as no surprise that Netanyahu and other leaders on the Israeli right applauded the strike. But in this case, those on the Israeli center and left also praised the move.

Netanyahu’s political rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, seemed to mirror the prime minister’s statement.

“I applaud President Donald Trump for his decision to assassinate Qassem Soleimani and for his bold leadership at large. This is the appropriate response to anyone responsible for the murder of countless innocent people and for undermining global stability,” he said on Twitter.

“The message to the leaders of terrorism is strong and clear: you will be held accountable for your actions,” wrote Gantz.

‘This is a good day for humanity’

Left-leaning members of the Blue and White Party also expressed support for the strike. Knesset member Ofer Shelah told JNS that “the killing of Soleimani was justified self-defense.”

MK Omer Bar-Lev, a defense expert in the left-wing Labor Party, similarly praised the act.

Bar Lev told JNS, “I congratulate President Trump and the American military for the successful assassination of the snake Soleimani. Precise intelligence, smooth operation and excellent results.”

He added that “in the last decades, Soleimani was the primary person behind terror attacks against us in the world, for the growth of Hezbollah and for the Iranians establishing themselves in Syria. This is a good day for humanity.”

The killing of Soleimani is just the latest action taken by the Trump administration that has received wide-ranging support across the mainstream Israeli political spectrum, including the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, withdrawing US funding from UNRWA and pulling the United States out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Like the US, Israel has not been immune to bitter partisan disputes, evidenced by the ongoing government stalemate that has led to an unprecedented third election in less than a year that is scheduled for March.

However, nearly all mainstream political leaders in Israel from the left and right tend to exhibit unity concerning national security, especially when it comes to Iran, which is viewed as an existential threat to the Jewish state.

Such collaboration was displayed during the lead-up to the Iranian nuclear deal spearheaded by the Obama administration. Most Israeli leaders, including the opposition at the time, joined Netanyahu in condemning the agreement.

Moving forward, Shelah sees the need for continued unity in the face of Iranian aggression.

“Iran won’t change its ways because of the assassination of one person,” he affirmed. “To prevent war, it will require a framework that includes wide-ranging covert and economic policies, led by the US partnering with Israel and many other countries which Iran threatens.”

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