Something Big Is Up - Kremlin official confirms PM's trip
A senior Kremlin official confirmed Wednesday to the Russian paper Kommersant thatPrime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahudid indeed make a clandestine trip to Russia on Monday.
Commenting on the visit, the official said that "this kind of development could only be related to new and threatening information on Iran's nuclear program."
The Russian newspaper 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."
The report comes despite a statement Wednesday from the Kremlin press service that "nothing is known" about reports of the visit. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin, also said he had no information, the Interfax news agency reported.
Nevertheless, there was never any official denial of the report from Moscow.
On Wednesday night, the Prime Minister's Office appeared to stick to its original version of events: that Netanyahu was occupied with "secret and classified activities" during his unexplained absence of over 12 hours.
The PMO announced that Military Secretary to the Prime Minister Lt.-Gen. Meir Kalifi was not in contact with the prime minister.
The whole mysterious episode has focused the spotlight on a reported fissure inside the Prime Minister's Office, with Kalifi and Arad on one side, and Hefetz and Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser on the other.
According to various new reports on Wednesday, Netanyahu - who was reportedly accompanied by Kalifi and Arad on the reported trip - leased a private jet from Merhav, a company owned by Israeli mogul Yossi Maiman, one of the shareholders of Channel 10 and EMG, an Egyptian company supplying gas to the Israel Electric Corp.
This was apparently done to make the trip as discrete as possible, since using an Israel Air
Forcejet - it was apparently thought - would have raised the suspicions of the Israeli media.
What is almost as mysterious as whether the trip took place, is what might have been discussed, with speculation focused on Iran, possible Russian arms deals to Iran and Syria, or the disappearance of the Arctic Sea cargo ship - suspected of carrying Russian made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles bound for Iran - that went missing last month.
The trip, if indeed it took place, would not have been the result of an impromptu, emergency decision, since there was already talk among Netanyahu's inner circle during his visit to London and Berlin two weeks ago about a possible visit to Russia ahead of the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of the month.