Today, a Russian court will hold a hearing regarding the government’s plans to shut down the national branch of the Jewish Agency, which assists Jews in moving to Israel. While the Agency has been under investigation by the Kremlin for three years, the move to shutter it has little to do with its supposed breaches of data-collection laws, and everything to do with geopolitics. Ron Ben-Yishai points first to the numerous airstrikes the IDF has conducted against Moscow’s Iranian allies in Syria:
The strikes, which exact a high price from the Syrian military, are increasingly raising the ire of President Bashar al-Assad, as they damage his image and apparent control of the area between Damascus and Aleppo. . . . Assad complains to Moscow that Israeli missiles and attacking aircraft are not shot at by the Russian forces despite their having the means to do so.
A senior Israeli source said Putin was concerned that he may lose his strategic hold on the eastern Mediterranean while at the peak of a conflict with the West. He is therefore more open to Assad’s demands and is pressuring Israel to stop its attacks on targets in Syria—launched to obstruct Iranian precision-weapons supplies [from being transported] through Syria to militias in Lebanon.
Ben-Yishai also notes that the escalation against the Jewish Agency came on the heels of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s accession to the Israeli premiership:
Lapid does not have a warm relationship with Putin. He had been outspoken in his criticism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and during the recent visit by President Joe Biden announced that Israel would increase its assistance to Kyiv. Putin, it seems, does not forgive such positions, and that may be why Lapid—who hopes to appear as the kind of leader who could navigate opposing powers to advance Israel’s interests—is being targeted by Moscow.