Netanyahu on Khashoggi Murder: Destabilizing Saudi Arabia Would Destabilize the World

'What happened in Istanbul is nothing short of horrific. But it’s balanced by the importance of Saudi Arabia,' Netanyahu tells foreign reporters

In this Jan. 29, 2011, file photo, Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks on his cellphone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that while the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is "horrific," it does not outweigh the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia.

"What happened in Istanbul is nothing short of horrific. But it’s balanced by the importance of Saudi Arabia and the role it plays in the Middle East," Netanyahu told foreign reporters at an event in Jerusalem. "Because if Saudi Arabia would be destabilized, the world, not the Middle East, will be destabilized," Netanyahu said. 

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Riyadh and a columnist for the Washington Post, disappeared on October 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain marriage documents.

Netanyahu's response was similar to comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump during an interview to Reuters. "I really hope that people aren't going to suggest that we should not take hundreds of billions of dollars that they're going to siphon off to Russia and to China, primarily those two, instead of giving it to us," he said, while discussing the murder of Khashoggi.

"You're talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs. You're talking about huge military and other contracts. I hope that's not going to be a recommendation," he concluded.

Turkish officials said last week that the Istanbul prosecutor's office had concluded there was "strong suspicion" that Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and General Ahmed al-Asiri, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence, were among the planners of Khashoggi's killing.

Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

The kingdom has come under scrutiny as details of his killing came to light. Making some of their strongest accusations so far, both U.S. Republicans and Democrats said last week they want to pass legislation to send a message to Saudi Arabia that the United States condemns the death of Khashoggi.

Reuters contributed to this report.