Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday dismissed as "nonsense" an allegation by the Iranian foreign minister that Israel was trying to trick the United States into waging war on Iran.
It was actually Israel that needed to be on alert for possible Iranian strikes, Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Kan public radio as Iran marked the first anniversary of the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote Saturday on Twitter: "New intelligence from Iraq indicate that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans - putting an outgoing (President Donald) Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli."
"Be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs," Zarif wrote, in what appeared to be a veiled threat against Israel.
Steinitz said the remarks showed that Iran, after mounting U.S. sanctions billed as curbing its nuclear program and involvement in regional conflict-zones, was "under pressure - economic pressure, and pressure in terms of national security."
"We hear this nonsense by Zarif, that Israel would set off terrorist attacks against the United States - this really is total nonsense," Steinitz told Kan.
"But on the other hand it is a warning sign - a warning sign that Iran is taking aim at Israel, is looking for excuses to lash out at Israel, and therefore we need to have our finger on the pulse and be at the highest state of alert."
The U.S. media reported in the aftermath of Soleimani's killing that Israeli intelligence "helped confirm the details" of his flight from the Syrian capital of Damascus to Baghdad on January 3, 2020 that immediately preceded his death.
Despite the high level of secrecy, once the general had landed in Iraqi capital, rockets fired from a U.S. drone killed him as he left the airport in a convoy of two armored vehicles.
Citing interviews with two officials with direct knowledge of the operation, NBC News said that initially informants at the Damascus airport provided intelligence on Soleimani's flight to Baghdad.
Interviewed separately on Kan, Culture Minister Chili Tropper, who is also a member of the security cabinet, confirmed media reports that Israel was on heightened alert for the Soleimani anniversary.
Asked what possible Iranian reprisals Israel was anticipating, Tropper said: "I cannot comment."
The U.S. military flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East in a message of deterrence to Iran on Wednesday, but the bombers have since left the region.
Washington blames Iran-backed militia for regular rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, including near the U.S. embassy. No known Iran-backed groups have claimed responsibility.