Israel’s New Friend: Russia

YERUSHALAYIM -

A Russian diplomat has pledged his country’s support for Israel in defending itself against aggression, in the wake of the infiltration of an Iranian-made drone into Israeli airspace last week.

“In the case of aggression against Israel, not only will the United States stand by Israel’s side — Russia, too, will be on Israel’s side,” Russian Deputy Ambassador to Israel Leonid Frolov told The Times of Israel.

“Many of our countrymen live here in Israel, and Israel in general is a friendly nation, and therefore we won’t allow any aggression against Israel.”

“We certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself, and the actions of Israeli pilots were entirely correct,” he said of the retaliatory strike on Syria after its Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles downed an Israeli F-15.

On the other hand, Frolov said he didn’t think that Iran was behind the drone incident and suggested that Israeli intelligence agencies re-examine the matter.

“One can accuse the Iranians of many things, but they’re not stupid,” he asserted. “They knew what would happen if they sent a drone over to Israel. No one doubts that Israel has the capability to defeat Iranian military forces in Syria. But we don’t want to assume, without proof, that the Iranians in Syria are insane.”

He suggested instead that elements fighting the Assad regime launched the drone in order to trigger an Israeli attack on the government forces.

Then, echoing Moscow’s rather less pro-Israel response at the time of the incident, the ambassador noted that “Syria is a sovereign country and the Syrian people, too, have the right to self-defense.”

Regarding Israeli protests against the Iranian military presence in Syria, Frolov agreed that they are “absolutely legitimate.” Moscow agrees that Iranian forces must leave the country as soon as the civil war ends and a new democratic government is established, he said.

Frolov had advice for Israeli intelligence agencies, saying that had Israel “established closer ties with Syrian secret services” it would have been better able to prevent Iran gaining a foothold in the country.

“Israel is surrounded by many enemy states. But that doesn’t prevent the Israeli leadership from announcing that their secret services have contacts with counterparts from Saudi Arabia or Qatar, for instance.”

He did not, however, explain the assumption that Syrian secret services would be willing
to cooperate with Israel.