Comment and Opinion

INSS: The Netanyahu-Putin meeting: What was agreed, and what are Russia’s intentions? by Amos Yadlin and Zvi Magen

More than two weeks after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most recent visit to Moscow, the public lacks answers to the four most important questions that concern Israel’s relations with Russia regarding Syria and the Iranian presence there: Has the deconfliction mechanism between Russia and Israel changed since the downing of the Russian plane and the decisive turning of the tide in the Syrian civil war? Has Netanyahu managed to persuade Putin not to give Syria control over the S-300 batteries deployed on Syrian soil? Is the reduction in Israeli air strikes in Syria a result of Iran’s suspended efforts to entrench itself there, or a concession to Russia? What is the significance of the planned joint committee with Israel for the removal of “foreign forces” from Syria? In the absence of official information about the proposed committee, two possibilities can be posited to explain Russia’s objectives. One is that there is a change underway in Russia, which is tired of its intervention in Syria. The second possibility is that Russia’s interests in Syria are long term and do not take Israeli interests into account, and this poses a dangerous scenario for Israel. If the proposed committee does indeed address the removal of Iranian forces from Syria, it would be a landmark development indicating Russia’s parting of ways with its main ally in Syria, and would spell highly positive ramifications for Israel in the Syrian and regional theaters. However, it is also possible that the proposal is a bureaucratic-diplomatic escape for Russia, given its inability or unwillingness to drive Iran out of Syria, and will drag Israel into a renewed discussion of the Golan Heights issue as a condition for removing the Iranian forces.

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