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June 6, 2016 3:55 pm

Russia Expert: Netanyahu-Putin Relations Reflect Moscow’s Push for Regional Influence, Jerusalem’s Need for Alternative to America (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Russian President Vladimir Putin with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, in Israel. Photo: Facebook.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Facebook.

What distinguishes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current trip to Moscow from his previous three parleys with the Russian president is that this one will focus on the Palestinians and the future of Syria, Mideast and Russia expert Zvi Magen told The Algemeiner on Monday, explaining that the Kremlin wants increased influence in the region, and that Jerusalem needs an alternative to the United States as a guarantor of its interests.

Speaking about the widely reported two-and-a-half-day visit with Vladimir Putin and other officials that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, embarked on mere hours earlier, Magen – a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv — repeatedly stressed that “what we are seeing is realpolitik in action.”

The complexity of the situation is obvious, Magen said, pointing to the strange bedfellows created in the wake of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. Indeed, in its aftermath, Putin – whose country is a signatory to the deal — has been taking the initiative to gain power and influence in the Middle East. Siding with Syrian President Bashar Assad against rebel forces fighting for his overthrow during the so-far five-year civil war, Putin began to dispatch military materiel and forces to the country in September, and created an alliance with Iran – Israel’s sworn enemy. Iran’s Lebanon-based proxy, the terrorist group Hezbollah, too, has been fighting with Assad’s troops in Syria, a country bordering Israel, all of whose forces in the war are enemies of the Jewish state.

As a result, explained Magen – who served as Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine in 1993 and to Russia in 1998, as well as heading Nativ, the Liaison Bureau of the Prime Minister’s Office, which maintained contact with Jews in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War from 1999 to 2005 – “Israel had to protect its own interests, and Russia was key to doing this.”

These interests include making sure that sophisticated weapons do not fall into the hands of Hezbollah, some of whose leading operatives Israel has reportedly assassinated over the past few months. To enable freedom of movement over the skies of Syria for the Israel Air force, Netanyahu appealed to Putin, and the two agreed to coordinate air sorties, to prevent unwitting Russian casualties.

“During their last meeting, Netanyahu and Putin discussed ongoing cooperation over Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights,” said Magen, referring to an April tete-a-tete between the two leaders, when Netanyahu reiterated his “appreciation” for Putin’s “heartfelt hospitality and the ongoing connection between us. I came here with one main goal — to strengthen the security coordination between us so as to avoid mishaps, misunderstandings, and unnecessary confrontations.”

This week, Netanyahu’s trip is being touted as one whose purpose is to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Israel and Russia. “And that is part of it,” said Magen, “as is Putin’s desire to retain a cultural connection with the many Russians who live in Israel today. But his interest in being a major player where resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is concerned is core to his realpolitik, which is why it has good reason to welcome Netanyahu.”

Russia, said Magen, “is in trouble. It thought it would be able to ‘sell’ the Americans and Europeans all kinds of regional achievements. Meanwhile, Israel has its own issue with the United States, and flaunting its increased ties with Moscow is a way of saying, ‘America, where have you been? Ok, if you’re not doing your part, I have to do it alone, with the help of Russia.’”

Another shared interest, according to Magen, has to do with neither side’s desire for Iran to become a regional hegemon. In addition, he said, Russia has put forth its vision for Syria – dividing the country into Swiss-like cantons, creating a federal government with autonomous provinces.

In a symbolic gesture of strengthening ties, Russia announced last week that it would return to Israel a tank that Syrian forces captured in 1982 during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the First Lebanon War.

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  • Mark James

    Putin has stolen aprox.300 billion from Russia and his net worth is to be 30 billion (liquid). Grant theft indeed.

    Russia has threatened its neighbors in ways that haven’t been seen in Europe since the Nazi’s.

    This is the kind of individual Israel is linking up with in Putin.

  • James P. Shevlin

    Thank you for all the information,it keeps me informed
    unlike american media.
    To protect the state of Israel a closer relationship with
    Russia is a smart move.Of course trust is a unknown.

    The american people love the state of Israel,unlike our
    president.His time in the white house is short.I wish him
    and his family well.
    Yours in unity
    James P. Shevlin

  • Prof Asher J Matathias

    Excessive caution and a strategic overview have not been Bibi’s strong suit. With his other petulant counterpart, Alexis Tsipras of Greece, they share shortsightedness if they dare to trade American good will and support for increasingly neo-czarist Russia, and Putin. Emotionally and realistically it is poor politics to sell America and our President short, ever!

    • You blame Bibi for this tectonic shift ? Blame Obama. He clearly caused this.

  • nat cheiman

    Putin is a stronger ally than Obama, who has kept Netanyahu at a distance. Russia will no doubt be Israels new ally

  • The way OBAMA (over the last couple of years) has been treating Israel and especially their elected premier Netanyahu, is it any wonder that Israel is forced to protect itself with additional protection voided by the present Whitehouse?

  • ESLombard

    Hooray! There are all kinds of unintended consequences. My own thinking is that there are all manner of exciting possibilities including new twists to old spy plots.

  • Stuart Somerstein

    Finally Netanyahu is standing up to the anti- Semitic Obama. The American president has accomplished alienating the only friend America has. Just shows his inexperience after 8 years.
    Netanyahu is a true leader that has his citizenry first in mind

  • Tony Trenton

    Bibi knows what he is doing.

    Thank goodness Livni and Herzog are not involved !!!

    6 months to go until the ‘Muslim Sleeper Agent’ Leaves office !!!


    I just hope that Obummer doesn’t become the new UN chief !!!

  • It almost matters who NOT the bedfellows are, but Churchill’s dictum comes to mind: “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”.

  • Larry

    You can thank Obama, Kerry and our State Department for this turn of events. We don’t have a friend left in the Middle East.

    • Reform School

      Such short memories Americans have. As if the Vincent Foster murder wasn’t enough, is tossing Israel (and US!) under the bus limited to Barry and Kerry? Not Hillary? Will Clinton shtick ever stick? Remember Vince Foster? Chris Stevens? Tony Scalia? Former co-President Hildebeest now demands 8 more years in the White House. If you believe the Obama Justice Department is any more anxious than the Clinton Justice Department to send The Benghazi Nazi to the Big House (whether for Stevenscide, Fostercide, her personal, unsecured Email system, or a $200 Million foreign-funded “private charity” magically-converted to a restricted-source campaign fund, would you like to buy some oceanfront property in Arizona? Some wish them future success. Others worship the ground they have coming to them. I vote with the latter.

  • Linda Rivera

    Under NO circumstances give away any more of the Jewish Holy Land given to Jews as an Everlasting Possession by our Precious, Wonderful Creator thousands of years before Islam was invented. NO SURRENDER, EVER!

    Any nation that seeks to harm Israel by dividing the land will experience severe punishments from God.

    ‘Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ Please don’t be so foolish as to think by DISOBEYING GOD and giving away a part of the Jewish Holy Land this will stop the Muslim 1,400 years WAR Against the Human Race – Non-Muslims.

    Muslims are determined to Conquer Every Nation and Every Non-Muslim and ENSLAVE us all in OBEDIENCE to BLOODTHIRSTY Quran commands. We must never Surrender.

    Putin is deeply respected by many people. The respect will evaporate if Putin pressures Netanyahu to give to Muslims Jewish land that NEVER belonged to Islam.

    The problem also is that Netanyahu appears to want to give away the Jewish land of Holy Judea and Samaria which will result in great suffering and many deaths for Jewish innocents.

    Please God, Protect Your People and Your Israel.

  • Jonah

    This is good. Together you can defend yourselves against obamas planetary Islamic onslaught. God will bless Russia such as putting a damper on the locust plagues along with shielding Russia from the asteroids and an array of various plagues, earthquakes, you know they are all listed explicitly in revelation. If Russia and Israel agree on some common goals it will give Obama heartburn….he will go into rage as described by Daniel and will set out to do as much destruction as he possibly can knowing his time is short. If the American generals value their family’s and country they must not allow his instability to effect or act as a catalyst for nuclear confrontation. Remember death Mahem and destruction is the signature sign of Obama he is unleashing those forces on earth that will Defie and battle God.

  • Both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian President Putin are strategic thinkers. Actually, Russia is not in trouble nor does Israel need help. Mr. Putin may discover that resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict is a “Bridge too far.” And Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership will successfully protect Israel’s interests.

  • Ed kohl

    So why is Putin selling Iran sophisticated anti aircraft systems to shoot down Israeli aircraft?

    • Don’t think for a moment that the hardware Putin is selling to the achmeds is not fully understood by the IDF. Putin doesn’t have to tell the world that the software controlling the weapons and other characteristics are fully known to the IDF. Just like Israel had full plans of the USS Liberty when it was spying on Israel enabling them to stop it’s transmissions and cripple the ship but not sink it.

  • The move by Iseael is highly commendable in the light of ongoing civil war in Syria, it’s immediate neighbour and various forces fighting in the region that has become beyond the manageable limits of US necessitating the involvement of multipolar world forces to handle the situation and bring the situation under control. The efficacy of United Nations can be more felt with more assertive world forces enforcing peace in the world particularly this war torn west Asia and turbulent Asia Minor zone.