Binyamin Netanyahu 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The media's fixation on whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a clandestine trip to Russia on Monday, and what he might have discussed there, spilled over into the Russian press Thursday, with intense speculation over the nature of the purported visit.
The Russian daily Kommersant quoted a senior Kremlin official as confirming the visit, and speculating that "this kind of development could only be related to new and threatening information on Iran's nuclear program."
The paper quoted experts speculating that such a trip would only be justified under extraordinary circumstances, "for example, in the case of Israel planning to attack Iran." These comments were made even as Russia formally denied knowledge of a Netanyahu trip.
The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russia's Foreign Ministry had no official information about the alleged visit.
"We have seen these reports in various media, and you know that not all the details add up, but there is nothing more I can tell you," ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko was quoted as saying, adding he had no information at his disposal. The news agency said a spokesman for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier he was busy that day with his pre-planned schedule, "which did not include a meeting with Netanyahu."
However, no explicit denial of the visit was given.
Meanwhile, the absence of any formal Israeli or Russian confirmation that Netanyahu went on a clandestine trip to Moscow Monday has led some diplomatic officials to wonder whether he may, indeed, have travelled elsewhere.
"For all I know, he could have gone to Saudi Arabia," one senior diplomatic official said Thursday, pointing out that none of the reports of the mysterious trip to Russia were confirmed by authorized Israeli or Russian sources.
While details of the visit remain shrouded in mystery, the incident has focused uncomplimentary attention on the day-to-day workings inside the Prime Minister's Office, where government officials say deep fissures exist between national Security Council head Uzi Arad and other senior staffers, such as spokesman Nir Hefetz and Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser.
The officials said there is no central address inside the Prime Minister's Office, and that more than five months after Netanyahu was sworn in as prime minister, there are still no clear lines of authority, with one person often stepping on the toes and contradicting decisions made by someone else.