White House: U.S. Shares Israel's Goal to Stop Iran From Gaining Foothold in Syria

Netanyahu publicly criticized the Syria cease-fire deal reached by Trump and Putin ■ Washington downplays tensions between U.S. and Israel on the issue

U.S. President Donald Trumps at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on July 13, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trumps at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on July 13, 2017. KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that the United States and Israel have a "shared goal" in Syria, which is to stop Iran from getting a permanent foothold in the country. 

Spicer's words came in response to harsh criticism from Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria, which was signed last week between Russia and the United States. Spicer downplayed any tensions between Israel and the United States on the Syrian issue. 

Netanyahu told reporters in Paris late on Sunday that the cease-fire arrangement perpetuated Iran's presence in Syria and that Israel was therefore "utterly opposed" to it.

The public objection was rare for Netanyahu, who has sought to avoid confrontation with Moscow and Washington over Syria.

A senior Israeli official who asked not to be named due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter said on Sunday Israel is aware of Iranian intensions to substantially expand its presence in Syria. Iran is not only interested in sending advisers to Syria, the official said, but also in dispatching extensive military forces including the establishment of an airbase for Iranian aircraft and a naval base.

"This already changes the picture in the region from what it has been up to now," the senior official said.

Netanyahu discussed the cease-fire deal with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by phone Sunday night.