ANALYSIS: Israel-Russia Summit Is Just as Important for Putin as It Is for Netanyahu

YERUSHALAYIM -

It is unlikely that the upcoming Netanyahu-Putin summit in Sochi will conclude poorly, with the two sides unable to reach an agreement [on Syria], because both sides understand the implications of leaving this issue unattended. It is probable that an understanding will be reached between the two parties, with each side conceding something.

Israel might have insisted more strongly on its demands if it knew that the Americans had its back. But after the Israeli security delegation returned from its meetings in Washington at the end of last week, it finally became clear beyond a doubt that President Trump and his people are too preoccupied with other matters, and they’ve left the Syrian issue as a whole to the Russians. This, then, gives the meeting in Sochi added importance. The solutions will be decided directly between Putin and Netanyahu. And the Americans, in this case, are out of the picture.

Netanyahu won’t need to explain too much to Putin. Putin gets the regional situation well and understands that Israel doesn’t have many options. If the Iranians remain close to Israel and continue to consolidate their positions and enhance the capabilities of Hezbollah and the various local Shi’ite groups, Israel will have no choice but to take military action against all of them. The Russians know that Israel possesses the capabilities to do so, and that it will. This in turn would damage the Russian standing in Syria and erode its position there.

There is also another aspect to the meeting today.

Russia is well aware of Netanyahu’s personal skills and is familiar with the special relationship that the prime minister has developed with the new president of the United States and his administration. And Moscow now needs Netanyahu as a mediator with President Trump, with regard to the international affairs that are important to Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere. Russia also knows that Netanyahu will visit the United States in the coming weeks and will meet with President Trump, and will therefore seek to convey various messages to the Americans through him.

It is therefore likely that the talks in Sochi will be productive and positive, although neither side will get everything it wants.