During his 48-hour trip to Moscow (Monday and Tuesday May 6-7), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will try and talk President Vladimir Putin into cutting Israel into the military teamwork evolving between Washington and Moscow for combating the Islamic State in Syria. As a quid pro quo, he will offer to elevate Moscow to senior broker in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, with Moscow or Geneva selected as the venue for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, if they occur – and with US participation. Netanyahu is also keen on a role for Egypt’s Presidents Abdek-Fattah al-Sisi.
DEBKAfile sources in Jerusalem and Moscow report exclusively that the floating of this deal was the reason why Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov abstained from attending the Mid East conference staged last weekend by France’s President Francois Hollande in Paris. The UK and German foreign ministers followed the Russian lead and stayed away.
And Friday, June 3, on the day of the Paris meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikihail Bogdanov, who is in charge of Kremlin Middle East policy, offered a formula for resolving the problem of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. That formula was very similar to the land swaps plan proposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman a few years ago.
It consisted essentially of the transfer to the Palestinian state of parts of Israel with dense Arab populations, in return for Palestinian recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli communities of Judea and Samaria.
In comments to Tass news service, Bogdanov said that Moscow is willing to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, and also offered to mediate between the rival Palestinian factions, including Abu Mazen’s Fatah and the radical Hamas which rules the aza Strip.
While some Israeli politicians see the French initiative as offering President Barack Obama a handle for settling accounts with PM Netanyahu before he leaves the White House at the end of the year, Moscow and Jerusalem are concocting a parallel strategy – not merely to block the Franco-American move, but also to lift Washington’s drive for an Israeli-Palestinian accord from Paris to Moscow.
DEBKAfile sources say that this maneuver is based on the early stages of military and political coordination between Washington and Moscow in the Syrian arena, including the fight against ISIS.
No such coordination exists between Washington and Paris.
Netanyahu envisages the tightening military cooperation between Russia and Israel for Syria, along with Israel’s active participation in the airstrikes against ISIS, as becoming integral to American-Russian understandings, and extending also to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Moscow and Jerusalem both estimate that an offer of US-Russian-Arab guarantees to the Palestinians, underwritten by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, can move the negotiations forward.
Netanyahu likely to approach Putin about presenting a united front in the event of French-brokered talks, political source claims.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is traveling to Moscow next week – possibly to realign Israel’s alliances with Russia after the Paris peace talk conference, a top political source claimed late Thursday.
“There’s a possibility that Binyamin Netanyahu will try to harness Russian President Vladimir Putin for the peace process,” the source stated to Maariv.
Whether or not Netanyahu will approach Putin over the issue will depend on the final outcome of Friday’s Paris conference, the source said.
Either way, “obviously, the Palestinian issue and developments in the Middle East will be raised in conversation, as well as the war in Syria and of course economic cooperation between the two countries.”
Netanyahu will make the visit Monday in honor of 25 years of the resumption of diplomatic talks between Moscow and Jerusalem.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Paskov said that Netanyahu and Putin will discuss – among other things – the continued implementation of border security coordination with Syria and a number of economic issues.
The spokesman did not address the question of whether they will discuss the French initiative and broach the subject of Russia’s position regarding the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu himself continues to resist the entire idea of the conference on the grounds that it allows the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations with Israel.
Russia, along with Britain, are not attending the conference.
Such a move would reflect Jerusalem’s budding alliance with Moscow, days after Putin returned a tank to Israel after Netanyahu made the request to Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin earlier this year. During the same meeting, the two reached an agreement to coordinate their actions in Syria.
Netanyahu appears to be reaching out to eastern countries – not only Russia, but also China, Japan, and India – in light of Europe’s insistence on supporting sanctions against Israel and on backing the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as the US’s bumbling foreign policy in the Middle East during the administration of US President Barack Obama.
Israel National News
The lightning visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow is a clear sign that the outcome of the Syrian quagmire is far from being carved in stone. It is also evidence that Moscow is regarded, rightly or wrongly, as one of the arbitrators of regional rivalries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: Reuters
The agenda of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which took place in Moscow on April 21 during the latter’s one-day visit to the Russian capital, was unsurprisingly dominated by the still pervasive regional disorder and persistent unpredictability of the situation in and around Syria.
With emboldened Syrian ruler Bashar Al-Assad now calling the shots and displaying a certain intransigence in what is so far a painfully unproductive inter-Syrian dialogue, Israel is understandably apprehensive about Assad’s beefed up armed forces, now on the offensive.
According to Tel Aviv strategists, there is a fair chance that the diplomatic pressure mounted recently by Syria for a return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (Golan) and a return to the borders of June 1967 might be backed by the threat of a military incursion.
The United Nations regards Golan as part of Syria, which it was prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel seized the territory. Tel Aviv says property rights to Golan are not up for negotiations. One of the down-to-earth explanations is that occupation of the Golan gives Israel access to the Sea of Galilee, its main source of fresh water.
Bone of contention codenamed S-300
No less worrisome for Israel is the re-activated deal to supply Iran with Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.
Netanyahu has repeatedly voiced his refusal to accept the nuclear deal reached in July 2015 on the Iranian nuclear program.
For Israel, he has claimed more than once, Iran poses an “existential threat.” The sales of sophisticated military hardware to the “mullahs” are viewed as a direct menace.
In this case, Russian authorities could have comforted Netanyahu by referring to the defensive character of the S-300, meaning it has no first-strike capability as such.
What counts as a ‘good bet’
As for assurances that Syria will be properly pacified and turned into a stable, good-natured neighbor, no one would be bold enough to sign up to such a positive scenario, neither in Moscow, nor anywhere else. At least, for the time being.
But this is not good enough for Israel. As Grigory Kosach, an expert on the politics of the Arab world and professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities, explained to RBTH, this is one of the main motives for the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Moscow this time.
“Take notice: This is the third visit by Netanyahu to Moscow in just six months. The impression is that Russia has failed to provide sufficient reassurances that Israel’s interests will not be affected by the developments in Syria and the region as a whole.
“In fact, the actual influence Moscow enjoys vis-à-vis Damascus is questionable. There is a strong suspicion that Syrian leader is more receptive to signals coming out of Tehran. Then there is the pro-Iran Hezbollah in Lebanon. This doesn’t give comfort to Israel, does it?”
– What is the rationale of coming to Moscow, which does seem to have any influence with Tehran or even with Damascus, as you say?
“Where else? Israel never ceases to forget that it is locked up in a hostile encirclement. It has workable relations with only two Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan. It doesn’t see it as opportune to talk to the United States. The Americans have even less authority to convince and persuade regional powers. This leaves Russia as a good bet.”
The Russian companies are interested in participating in the gas production projects in the Mediterranean shelf of Israel, according to the materials to the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, the Israeli prime minister arrived in Moscow to meet with the Russian president.
“Among the promising areas of cooperation <…> the energy sphere (Russian companies are interested in participating in the natural gas production projects on the Mediterranean coast of Israel),” the documents read.According to the materials, the promising areas of bilateral cooperation are aircraft construction, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and healthcare.
Netanyahu’s visit comes soon after Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited the Russian capital in March. During the meeting, with Israeli President, Putin noted that he was planning to hold talks with the Israeli prime minister in the near future.