Netanyahu to Discuss Syrian Situation with Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint news conference following talks in the Kremlin in June 2016. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool photo via AP)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will take Israel’s case to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from expanding their military presence in Syria to Russia on Wednesday.

Netanyahu reportedly met with senior security officials on Tuesday to prepare for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

The meeting follows similar consultations earlier this week with U.S. officials in Washington where Mossad chief Yossi Cohen represented Israel. Cohen and National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat are set to accompany Netanyahu on the Russian trip.

Israel has opposed the deal arranged by Washington and Moscow as it now stands, saying it does not properly address Israel’s concerns about Iranian ambitions in the region.

“The two set the meeting to discuss the latest developments in the region,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said, and noted that “in the last two years Prime Minister Netanyahu has met with President Putin every few months to discuss bilateral and regional issues with the intention of preventing any clashes between Israeli and Russian air forces in Syria, with success until now.”

Tzvi Magen, former Israeli ambassador to Russia and current head of the Russian research program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told Arutz Sheva that when the Israelis made their presentation to officials in Washington in the past few days, they were told that the matter was in Russia’s hands.

Magen said further that Putin recognizes Israel as a regional power that cannot just be brushed aside, and that it would be in his interest to find an accomodation with Netanyahu.

Russia is as concerned as Israel to avoid friction between the two. “Russia is involved militarily, but its power is limited. It has 40 aircraft, some defenses, and that’s it,” he said.

Magen predicted that the parties will reach a compromise agreement. “Russia cannot expel the Iranians even if she does not like them; she must commit to monitor the Iranians and to maintain certain red lines while taking their cause under its auspices. The Russians intend to be present in the next arrangements, while Israel will have freedom of action if things go beyond what is expected. It is a compromise because Israel claims at present that it will not be able to tolerate the Iranians in Syria in any situation, but it will have to accept a situation in which the Iranians will be under Russian supervision.”

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