On Thursday, the Israeli delegation led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived Moscow.
The Israeli delegation includes Head of the National Security Council, Major General Yaakov Nagel, Chief of the Military Intelligence, Herzl Levi, Brigadier General Eliezer Toledano, the Military Secretary to the Prime Minister.
The situation in Syria is the core of the agenda of the talks between the Russian and Israeli sides. Israel is concerned over the increased Iranian influence, and the rowing military capabilities of Hezbollah.
Earlier, the Press Service of the Israeli Prime Minister confirmed that the working visit was pursuing two goals:
- To continue cooperation in order to avoid Israeli-Russians incidents and tensions in Syria;
- To demonstrate Israel’s disagreement on the military presence of Iran or its proxies at the northern Israeli border and in the Mediterranean. Israel will keep this stance no matter what result the Syrian settlement has.
Another problem for Israel is the collapse of the ISIS terrorist group. Both ISIS and so-called moderate rebels had not conducting operations against Israel during the Syrian war. Furthermore, militants fighting the Assad government used to be treated in Israeli hospitals until early March. Some Syrian sources even report that anti-Assad militant groups had been receiving a military assistance from Israel. The Israeli military has repeatedly stricken the Syrian army and Hezbollah.
However, the ISIS military defeat pushed its members and ISIS-linked group to adjust. A pressure from the Syrian-Iranian-Russian coalition pushed militants to relocate to Lebanon and Jordan, to search new patrons, sources of funds and bases.
The Israeli leadership is concerned that these militants could join some anti-Israeli groups operating in Lebanon and the nearby areas. Israel’s actions against the Arab population, claims to territorial sovereignty over the Golan Heights and the legalization of Jewish settler homes built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank are a useful ground for propaganda aimed on recruiting gunmen in Sunni anti-Israeli groups.
Thus, Israel faces major security threats at its borders in the areas of the Golan Heights and Galilee, additionally to existing strategic threats from Hezbollah and Iran.
In Moscow, the Israeli delegation is attempting to solve a number of issues, but the Iranian influence is the priority. In this case, Israel has full support from the US, the EU, including the UK, Turkey and the Gulf monarchies.
Netanyahu aims to convince President Putin that Russia and Iran no more have a common ground in Syria and propose some alternative to Moscow. This package solution has to be profitable for all involved sides. At least Netanyahu is to demonstrate to international media sphere that there are some significant disagreements between Russia and Iran which are successfully played up by the Israeli leadership.
This is why some “source close to Netanyahu” said to the Qatar-based TV Channel al Jazeera that Russia would allegedly allow Israel to fight Hezbollah from the Syrian airspace. Al Jazeera used this “inside” in its coverage of the visit of the Israeli delegation to Moscow. The Kremlin denied this rumor.