Russia’s Return to the Middle East, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 13 2016

Above all, writes Yaakov Amidror, Moscow’s intervention in Syria, along with its cultivation of closer diplomatic ties with Cairo and Tehran, is aimed at restoring Russian influence to what it was at the height of the cold war, and ultimately at supplanting the U.S. as the dominant force in the region. While Israel continues to make the best of a bad situation, the horizon is not bright:

Israel . . . has some major disagreements with Russia, especially after the sale of sophisticated weapons to Iran and Syria and the transfer of many weapons systems to Hizballah. [However], Russia’s willingness to tolerate Israel Air Force operations over Syria reflects a certain understanding of Jerusalem’s position. In a way the tacit permission it grants to Israeli operations to stop the arms transfers legitimizes those operations.

Overall, in its relationship with Russia, Israel is realistic. It tries to understand what can be achieved (for example, a lengthy delay in supplying Iran with the S-300 surface-to-air missile system) and what cannot be achieved (for example, the outright cancellation of the sale of the S-300 missile system).

Israel understands that it cannot stop cooperation among Iran, Hizballah, and Syria in the war against the [anti-Assad] rebels. Israel has been able, however, to establish a conflict-prevention mechanism to prevent any incidents that could occur if Israel and Russia were to operate in the same area without reliable communication.

This mechanism is not an alliance, or even a coordination agreement. It is a technical arrangement with the goal of preventing incidents. It is limited to the narrow field of preventing error in an area where both sides are active, each for its own purposes. The diplomatic significance of the conflict-prevention mechanism should not be overstated. Nor should Israel rely on the hope that the Russians will limit Hizballah’s or Iran’s operations against Israel or do anything to mitigate them.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli grand strategy, Middle East, Russia, Syrian civil war

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan