Israel refuses to expel Russian diplomats; Finds Novichok stocks in 20 countries

Israel was not among the 24 Western governments that expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats Monday over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK.

It is said to be the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history. The Israeli government was moved by three considerations:

  1. A secret Israeli intelligence report to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Avigdor Lieberman revealed that although the military-grade chemical agent used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter was originally produced in Soviet Russia, today at least 20 other governments are manufacturing and stockpiling the illicit chemical agent.
  2. Last week, Israel tried to determine US President Donald’s position on UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s appeal to allies for active retaliation against Moscow. This was important in view of Israel’s relations with Moscow and its interaction with the Russian commanders in Syria. The answer reaching Jerusalem from the White House was vague and noncommittal.
  3. The US president’s sudden decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the Seattle consulate, after weeks of avoiding explicitly naming Moscow as the culprit of the attack, is believed by our sources to be related to the drive for a US-European understanding on how to address the future of the Iranian nuclear accord. This drive is still ongoing and Israel is still awaiting its outcome. This week, two senior European foreign ministers called on the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem to present their case on this issue – German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

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