Russia Has Stopped Pretending to Be Israel’s Friend

Oct. 10 2018

Since 2015, when Russia first acknowledged its military presence in Syria, the conventional wisdom has been that relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have remained good: numerous meetings have taken place between Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin, and Russia has continued to tolerate Israeli airstrikes in Syria. Some have even spoken of a “bromance” between the two leaders, as a result of which the Kremlin could now be counted on to restrain its ally Iran. Yet Moscow’s reaction to the recent Syrian downing of a Russian plane, and its decision to provide Damascus with the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, suggest a less sanguine conclusion. Indeed, writes Yigal Carmon, they merely reveal what was true all along: Russia is no friend of the Jewish state.

One year ago, Russia’s mask of non-hostility toward Israel was still in place, in the form of strategic coordination with Israel regarding the latter’s bombings in Syria. This allowed Russia to conceal that it fully sided with Israel’s enemies: Syria and Iran. Even as it refrained from trying to stop Israel from bombing Iranian targets in Syria, Putin’s Russia was simultaneously enabling and sponsoring Iran’s expansion into Syria. . . .

[In fact], strategic Israel-Russia coordination of Israeli bombings in Syria served Russian interests, [since] an Israel-Russia military escalation could only draw the United States into the melee and thus expose Russia as a mere regional power that was no match for the U.S. . . .

Now the picture is crystal-clear: the Russians, who originally enabled and sponsored the Iranian expansion in Syria as an anti-American measure, now also protect the Iranians in Syria from Israeli attacks. This constitutes an undeclared act of war against Israel by an enemy, i.e., Russia—since it will not be the Syrians operating the S-300s against Israeli aircraft, because [Syrian personnel] face a long learning curve [before mastering them]; it will, for an indeterminate time, be Russian officers. . . .

Russia’s true face has been revealed not only in the military/strategic sphere—by providing S-300s to Syria—but also by its reversion to the old Russian/Soviet anti-Semitism that not even President Putin’s “special relationship” with Chabad can camouflage. The former Israeli ambassador to Russia Zvi Magen noted [that] “the media blamed Israel on the day of crisis [over the Syrian downing of the Russian plane] in a well-timed orchestrated manner, filled with anti-Semitic elements. This wasn’t random.”

Given Russia’s actual policy toward Israel, this should come as no surprise.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security