Israel is getting caught between the U.S. and Russia at a time of serious tensions between the two world powers, which could be dangerous for Israel, former Israeli envoy to the U.N. Ron Prosor told Army Radio on Monday.
In an unusually strong rebuke, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power on Sunday accused Russia of “barbarism” in Syria. She said that Russian and Syrian forces were “laying waste to what is left of Aleppo, an iconic Middle Eastern city.” Power and her U.K. and French counterparts subsequently walked out of the Security Council when the Syrian representative’s turn to speak came.
“We have here a dangerous situation. It is dangerous, by the way, also to [Israel], because we find ourselves right in the middle,” Prosor said. “We coordinate with Russia, and the Americans are an important strategic asset for us.”
Prosor said that a conflict between the Americans and Russians could lead to “a very uncomfortable reality” for Israel.
“There is a head-on confrontation between the world powers who both currently maintain a presence in the arena, not through proxies,” he stated. “As far as we are concerned, as a country that is in the area with these world powers, who are in the midst of an escalating conflict, the arena is complicated.”
Prosor did say, however, that as heated as the rhetoric has become, he does not foresee any direct military conflict.
In an appearance at the conservative Hudson Institute in New York last Thursday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu answered questions about Israel’s warming relationship with Russia.
Netanyahu said the policy made sense, in view of shared concerns about Islamic terrorism, a mutual desire to avoid inadvertent clashes in Syria, and Russia’s interest in Israeli technology.
With an eye toward an eventual settlement in Syria, the prime minister said it was important to have good relations with Russia, which can use its influence to keep Hezbollah, Iran and al-Qaida from gaining footholds near Israel’s norther border.
“We don’t want to see in the aftermath in Syria — whether with an agreement or without an agreement — we don’t want to see an Iranian military presence, we don’t want to see Shi’ite militias which Iran is organizing from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, and we certainly don’t want to see Iranian game-changing weapons being transferred through Syrian territory to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” he said.
Netanyahu stressed during the interview that being on good terms with Russia would not affect Israel’s alliance with the U.S., which remains paramount. That got applause.