Netanyahu: Israel Has ‘Full Freedom of Action’ in Skies Above Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Thursday. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov)

Speaking at Ben Gurion airport upon his return from Russia Friday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin had been positive.

After meeting with both Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Netanyahu said that important security issues had been discussed “in depth and detail. The meetings [were] an opportunity for us to discuss intelligence and exchange information to enable us to continue operating in the field.”

Among those operations are Israeli Air Force forays into Syria, an issue Moscow is said to be very concerned about. Netanyahu said that understandings on the matter were in place. “Our freedom of action continues, and our security coordination with Russia is solid. The air space above Syria is very crowded,” and the objective of ensuring Israeli freedom of movement in the air “was achieved,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also said that the Russians did not express an opinion on his declaration to annex the Jordan Valley. “They did not condemn it, nor did they complain about the declaration,” Netanyahu said. The prime minister made the declaration Wednesday, on the eve of his trip to Russia, and minutes after the declaration, Russia said in a statement that it was “especially worrying,” and was likely to increase violence in the region.

Netanyahu also reiterated the Israeli denial that it had planted listening devices at key sites in Washington in order to spy on officials in the administration of President Donald Trump. Netanyahu said that the report that had appeared Thursday in Politico was “completely baseless. It’s possible someone is trying to drive a wedge between me and the president, that is a logical explanation for this lie. Our relations are excellent, we do not need to use these tactics, and in any event we reject them out of hand,” Netanyahu said.

Speaking last night, Trump said he did not believe the allegations. “I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us,” he told reporters at the White House. “I would find that hard to believe.”