In Arranging the Release of a Hostage from Syria, Russia Got to Show Israel Who’s Boss

February 22, 2021 | Yoav Limor
About the author:

Over the weekend, an Israeli woman—reportedly with a history of mental illness—who had snuck into Syria two weeks ago was returned to Israel via Moscow. In exchange, Jerusalem, in negotiations with the Kremlin, agreed to release two captured Syrian shepherds who were likely engaged in military reconnaissance. According to the New York Times and several other media outlets, Prime Minister Netanyahu has also arranged to purchase Russian-made coronavirus vaccines on behalf of the Syrian government as part of the deal. Yoav Limor comments:

In past deals, Israel sought to avoid concessions not directly related to the deal itself. The argument was that doing so would open a dangerous door to a bevy of strange demands from the other side in the future, from money to weapons to other diplomatic concessions. . . . The Israeli government made a legitimate decision to deviate from its customary position, but [its attempt to keep this part of the agreement secret] raises questions and concerns.

On the surface, Russia had no reason to insist on Israel paying for the vaccines. It is a minuscule sum that doesn’t affect its economy. Just to put things in perspective: every month, Russia transfers to Syria anti-aircraft batteries to replace those destroyed or damaged in Israeli airstrikes, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. Although Syria is supposed to pay for these batteries, in actuality it can’t afford them and receives them for free.

Hence, it appears Russia’s main goal was to show Israel who the real boss in the area is; to humiliate it a little, and along the way make a quick buck. This is regrettable for many reasons, mainly because Israel could have leveraged (with Syria and the Palestinians) the vaccines it possesses toward significant achievements for itself rather than for others. Not doing so, together with accepting the Russian dictate—could send a [unsalutary] message to the region that Israel only understands force.

Read more on Israel Hayom:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now