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Turkish-Iranian tangle Putin and Netanyahu
Material posted: Publication date: 21-04-2016
Russia and Israel are today allies, partners, temporary or secret rivals?

In Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin on 21 April once again will arrive the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Two days before this, on 18 April, Russia on a working visit to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Of course, at these meetings in the Kremlin will discuss Israeli-Palestinian settlement, but if it becomes the main topic of conversation with Putin, Netanyahu and Abbas? Many experts emphasize that today, this problem has somewhat faded into the background – against the backdrop of the war in Syria, countering the terrorist group "Islamic state" and total serious threats to global security emanating from the middle East. In 2016 it will be 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the state of Israel. So what is the relationship of Russia and Israel today – as allies, temporary partners, or secret rivals?

Benjamin Netanyahu the other day for the first time acknowledged that the Israeli air force in recent months also participated in the war in Syria, namely attacked to "do not allow to enter to the Lebanese Hezbollah, which remains a military ally of the Assad regime, the latest weapons that threaten Israel." This kind of weapons Hezbollah could transfer the Syrian government army, having received it from Iran or from Russia.

The last time Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Moscow in the fall of 2015 – at the start of the Russian military operation in Syria to, as reported officially, to coordinate the actions of the defense ministries and intelligence agencies of the two countries in the region "to avoid incidents". For possible incidents, obviously, meant a situation similar to the one that led to the destruction in November of last year the Turkish air force Russian su-24 bomber.

Since then relations between Moscow and Ankara has fallen almost to zero – against the background of reports that in recent months, Turkey and Israel are preparing to restore its unofficial military-political and economic Union that existed until around 2009-2010 and then severed due to the growth of anti-Israel rhetoric in a rapidly islamised Turkey, whose authorities have angered the Israeli operation Cast lead in Gaza in late 2008 – early 2009 and the capture of the Israeli Navy of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara that tried to break the blockade of Gaza on the night of 30 to 31 may 2010.

The independence of the "state of Palestine", which is rather de jure than de facto, recognized by 135 of the 193 member countries of the UN, including Russia, but in Ankara, which is concerned with the mass of other foreign policy issues, perhaps today the "Palestinian subject" is no longer the main, emphasizes the political scientist, Professor Zeev Khanin, chief consultant of the Ministry of immigrant absorption:

– During the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow is clearly the primary topic of conversation will be the war in Syria. But in the depths of this topic lies so many pitfalls that first question like this: Israel and Russia today rather allies or opponents, if it comes to ways to end the Syrian conflict?

– Of course, not opponents. Definitely not in the same context as it was during the cold war. In our postmodern world the strategic partnership between the two countries does not mean that the enemy of one country is necessarily the enemy of another, exactly the same as strategic partners not necessarily have no right to be friends with someone who can't be friends another strategic partner. For example, the situation where there is a vector from Moscow to Tehran, for example, and between Iran and Israel relations could be better, to put it mildly. If in former times it bred Israel and Russia "in different corners of the political map of the world", this is not happening today. Just as kind of cold war that occurs between Russia and the United States, in General, does not prevent Israel and the US to support a strategic partnership, although a little less warm than previous American administrations. There is a package of relations between Russia and Israel, in which there are, of course, the items on which both sides cannot agree. At this stage they can be taken out of the equation, because within this package there are stories that Israel and Russia to negotiate. Here's one of these stories is and the situation in Syria. In this sense, we can choose any range of definition of relations between Israel and Russia, from "fellow travelers" to "allies", but they are definitely not rivals.

Binyamin Netanyahu stated for the first time that Israel has attacked Syria in order to disrupt the supply of weapons to insurgents of movement "Hezbollah". But Hezbollah is the closest ally of Bashar al-Assad, Tehran's protégé, which means that at this stage exactly, at least not the enemy of Russia. Now this what will be discussed in Moscow? And ask the question more broadly: the question of Palestine, which in the world amid threats from ISIL, the mass migration to Europe and so on somehow forgotten so far?

– The example you mentioned is the most interesting indication of the relationship model that exists today on the above-mentioned vector of the Israel – Russia. Is the arc of partnership Russia – Iran – Assad regime (named "Alawite Syria") plus, of course, by one round of the radical Shiite group "Hezbollah" – has formed a military-political bloc, "quarter Union".This model of relations has created some threat to Israel.But right now, in the context of which we speak, the relationship between Israel and Russia has allowed to make a plot of the brackets relations. On the one hand, we see that the agreements that were reached between Israel and Russia touched upon these points that concern Israelis. As far as we know, during previous visits – and Prime Minister Netanyahu to Moscow, and visits of professional delegations of the defense Ministry, General staff of the Israeli intelligence services, who met with his counterpart in Russia has achieved some mutual understanding.

In some cases in Moscow lost! For example, in terms of supplies of Russian weapons coming to Syria and through Syria to the same "Hezbollah". It is clear that direct deliveries can be, and is not, although in the Israeli press flashed and other messages. However, even if we trusted (and still trust not) the official position of Moscow, i.e. the Kremlin and Smolensk square that direct supplies of weapons that would change the balance of forces in the vicinity of Israel, from Russia, Hezbollah did not happen, it is still quite possible that weapons delivered to Syria, "Hezbollah" fell.

Similarly, we should not forget the history of Iranian weapons, which are also offered to Syria and Assad as a conduit, this "Hezbollah". This raises the question, too, is likely to be discussed again at the meetings of the Prime Minister of Israel in Moscow: "what will happen now, after defrosting foreign accounts of Iran and massive purchases of Russian weapons that Iran? Whether it's to get the Iranian weapons to Syria and then to terrorist organizations, which are under the auspices of Tehran and Damascus?" Now, some time ago in the bilateral contacts between Russia and Israel reached an understanding that Israel would allow themselves to do everything in its power to ensure that such weapons will change the balance of power, do not fall into the hands of extremists, primarily Hezbollah. And in Moscow, in General, agreed – at first silently, and now, after these data are made public because the denials were no, then, accordingly, agreed and de facto. Until then, until it affects strategic interests of Russia in this part of the Middle East, and the strategic interest of Russia is the preservation of Syria as a unified state led by the same Baathists the right-wing regime (with or without Assad, although officially they say that with Assad), is the result of the Moscow meeting should be a confirmation or refinement of these preliminary agreements.

And let's not forget about the other subjects, agreement on which was reached earlier. Namely, that in Moscow have agreed that Israel will not allow the appearance on the Syrian part of the Golan heights is still an Iranian front against Israel, which is Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Any settlement in Syria, the Israeli interest, in one form or another, will be taken into account. I guess this will be discussed here is a radical vector of Russian-Iranian relations, and the new configuration in the balance of power in Syria after it was announced the withdrawal of the Russian troops (but still not going anywhere), plus the current parliamentary elections that occur in the Assad controlled part of Syria. Although the vote in most Western countries is perceived as a political game, not as the real will of the Syrian people. All of these topics and will be the very same pitfalls to which you allude, and which will become the content of the negotiations, Israel and Russia at the highest level.

– Many write that Israel and Turkey are close to concluding a strategic Alliance, after a period of strong cooling due to the incident with "Freedom Flotilla" to Gaza 5 years ago. And that negotiations with Israel Turkey first began in December last year, after the rupture with Moscow. It is no coincidence? And again, we're talking about allies, Russia and Iran are allies in Syria, now allies can become Israel and Turkey. And the whole fight with grouping "Islamic state" and other radicals. It's a dangerous tangle? And who is it more dangerous?

– This is a fun tangle. But again this is quite post-modern situation. With regard to relations between Israel and Turkey, they were strategic in nature until 2010, until Erdogan decided to intensify its "neoottomanism course".Disillusioned with the prospects of integration into the EU, Ankara has set out with the idea of restoring Turkey's influence in regions which were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, we have decided to adopt a dominant role in Turkey's "Arab-Islamic world", primarily in the middle East. And this, from the point of view of Erdogan and Davut-Oglu, could easily be done by a sharp deterioration in relations with Israel and, respectively, the set of points in the eyes of the "Arab-Islamic world". Much success in this direction Ankara is not achieved, the costs here in this case, the Turks appeared much more, than achievements. Erdoğan, apparently, has sharply overestimated and opportunities of the Turkish economy, and the ability to influence the development of the situation in Syria in the right direction. And dramatically overestimated the Islamic anti-Israeli lobby in Europe and leftist anti-Israel sentiment, believing that it is a serious and deep conflict at the level of the cold war, in which he will be able to take the side of "good guys". Still, the conflict between Israel and the EU is more of a misunderstanding, misunderstanding, including, as you mentioned the Palestinian problem. Everyone already forgot, except from time to time strange marginal initiatives that have extremely few prospects.

Now, Erdogan believed that it is about a deep and serious disengagement between Israel and Europe. And today, Erdogan's only the prospect of some way to minimize expenses is to turn again towards Europe, and this will require the restoration of relations with Israel. So I would not exaggerate the importance of talking about the restoration of the strategic partnership between Turkey and Israel. For Ankara, this would be extremely important, of course – to present the situation in such a way that relations with Israel began to acquire the character of strategic partnership. But again in order not to lose face, and with it the power, Erdogan is needed to convince all, first of all, their own people, and yourself, what Benjamin Netanyahu to him supposedly just crawled on his knees and ready to meet the ultimate requirements of Turkey, which was put forward to restore these relations. Namely to remove the blockade from Gaza, to compensate the terrorists who were killed on Board the Mavi Marmara, sailing the breakthrough of the blockade of Gaza, and accept that Turkey will play a leading role in the restoration of housing, economic, and military, apparently, the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. To date, the answer to all three was "no". But Erdogan is trying to present that "no" is actually "Yes" that the humanitarian assistance that Israel is ready, is "compensation" that an agreement to discuss the role of Turkey together with Qatar in the reconstruction of Gaza is already a solution to the issue that actually Netanyahu apologized sincerely, and so on. All this is far from the truth!

Of course, let's not forget that Israel has its own interests, relating, for example, obtaining a stable steady market for Israeli gas, which, under good conditions, can become a Turkey. But, in General, in Israel the majority of experts now believes that the unpredictable regime of Erdogan is not the best alternative for the option which was discussed earlier. Namely, the vector of the Israel – Cyprus – Greece, anti-Turkish strategic Union, which at the same time will include a gas pipeline to Europe, with connection there, it is possible that variants associated with Jordan and Egypt. But this is a separate issue that needs to be discussed specially. Whatever it was, it is not clear that the Israel in Turkey "will win, if you want to lose", as they say in Odessa, that is if you want to play in the giveaway with Erdogan, giving him the opportunity to save face.

– Since we have mentioned Europe, the Islamic lobby, leftist sentiments, let me remind you that Israel now has to create even a special Department for the fight against boycott, which initiate many community groups and politicians in the world, primarily in Europe. And here is how the boycott will affect Israel's relation with Russia and on the views on Russia in General Israeli society, not only in the political establishment? Still remember, for example, as the President of Russia Vladimir Putin a couple of months ago, it seems, communicated with leaders of the Jewish Diaspora from Europe and invited the Jews to come back.

I think that such an invitation was a joke, and the President of Russia is not seriously treated such idea. Although here in Israel all this was discussed with varying severity and with different reactions – from laughter to outrage. But after all all perfectly understand that Russia is actually happening. As for the so-called BDS campaign, the organization antishrinkage boycott – in General this is the fourth round of what we call Arab anti-Semitism. Their first ally was German Nazism, as we remember, in the days of the mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Amin al-Husseini. Then their ally was the Communist bloc, then became an ally of radical Islamism, but after the "Arab spring" this ally is extremely doubtful. And now all the efforts of the anti-Zionist lobby and the Palestinians, and the Arab countries, and in Europe, are making to organize this campaign. It's frustrating, to tell you the truth, when the star of David forced to label Israeli goods, has, however, been made for the "green line" (the internationally recognized borders of Israel. – RS). To those that are produced inside the green line, the case has not yet reached. Unpleasant anti-Israel "five-minute of hatred" in University campuses, which occur in Europe and some cities in North America.

But in practice there is more noise than real danger. Israel is the only non-European country participating in almost all European programs, from space exploration, the development of high technologies, production of medicines, agricultural technologies and to defense cooperation. As for the international campaign of boycott and sanctions against Russia, as you know, Israel, possibly referring to own experiences, to date, the campaign joined in. That's not the question, but it's nice if the Russians feel "Israelites" today? – ironically Professor Zeev Khanin.

In modern Israel live more than a million immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union, preserving the knowledge of the Russian language, and in many the memory of life in the USSR. The country has 21 organizations of Russian compatriots. What mood are seen now inside this huge Diaspora, when it comes to what is happening in Russia, about Russian foreign policy, primarily in the Middle East, Syria and, of course, Ukraine? This tells international observer, reduktorostroenie media portal IzRus Alexander Kogan:

– To paraphrase the old joke, say that to learn the number of these existing views, it is necessary, conditionally speaking, to multiply by three or even four the total number of our compatriots in Israel. The common position among the Russian-speaking Israelis on all issues marked you absent. Except that we are generally a little "more right" than the average Israeli, but it is when it comes to our internal Affairs. Indeed, in social networks shows a very large-scale confrontation between those who support a more or less supports one of the sides in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Comes to epic multiplayer battles between jokingly saying, "the Hebrew quilted jackets" and "Jewish Banderites". We have, incidentally, now has opened a "new front" in social media is Jewish "preserverance" and Jewish "prohormone" at war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Broad themes, which divide this million-strong population, very much. Russian foreign policy, I think that part of Syria receives more approval from non-Russian Israelis, than from Russian-language – for the reason that non-Russian Israelis see the situation in a distorted way. "That's where Putin came in, he's obomba – and for us! Here today palombini 20 goals, demolished half the city there, the city is there, the village – and everywhere were the headquarters of ISIL". The attitude of the public: "We can temporarily borrow to comrade Putin for a week or two?" But among Russian-speaking Israelis goes on it's a joke that "one week will not borrow – he won't quit".

The so-called "Russian Aliya" more than 50 per cent came from Ukraine and even Soviet Ukraine and post-Soviet Ukraine, so the "Ukrainians" here more than "the Russians". There are opinions and purely Pro-Ukrainian, and the position, a little coarse, "a plague on both their houses", and the Pro-Russian position. Probably the prevailing opinion that all this topic is, roughly speaking, takes those who do not want or have to go under someone's "flag," or by someone "autoblocking" flag. There are just Russian-speaking Israelis, which the Israelis! They don't see themselves a party to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and don't want anyone to ascribe to them a non-existent their views , held demonstrations in the spirit: "Israel supports Ukraine" or "Russia for Israel" or "Israel for Donbass", or "Israel for Poroshenko," etc. the Fact that they are "Russian" Israelis, doesn't mean they support one side in this conflict. They just don't want to be a party. And often the very attempt to explicitly draw this one million-strong population on one side cause the opposite negative effect. We do not Pro-Russian and Pro-Ukrainian, we'!

– Speaking of the possible points of contact between Israel and Russia: the Minister of tourism of Israel Arif Levin in an interview with several Russian media said that his country "does everything that in the near future Russia would become the main supplier of tourists to Israel, even surpassing the United States." This assumption is from the category of fiction – in the background we see throughout the middle East? Or realistic, no matter what?

– It is quite realistic. Because, for example, in 2012-2013, before the Ukrainian crisis, sanctions, full-scale war in Syria, the surge of terrorist attacks in Egypt and others that Israel came by only 20 thousand less tourists from Russia than from the US. I'm talking about, it seems, 623 thousand in 2013 from the U.S. and 599, I think, from Russia. Due to the fact that Egypt is, relatively speaking, was closed, due to the fact that Turkey has closed for the Russians on the middle East area, which they love, for those who want to go on holiday outside Europe, but not far, remains today only Israel! About what is happening in the middle East – well, what can you do? In Turkey – explosions, with Turkey, Moscow has a bad attitude. So, naturally, those people who were planning to go to Turkey, can make a decision to go to Israel. Which, honestly, is really expensive in terms of recreation, but if there is no output, and the person wants to go somewhere, he will most likely go to Israel.

And Russian tourists will not frighten attacks from Gaza, the war in Syria, which is almost on the border with Israel, if you take the Golan heights and complicated the refugee situation, the global Islamist threat?

– During the military action in Gaza, indeed, the number of tourists decreased, but only slightly. Russian tourist, as if to say politely, "scores" on this kind of threat, because Israel has already developed a certain image: "Yes, if we hit, we hit back. And we put 200 percent efforts to make our civilians didn't suffer". It was amazing! People from Russia visited us during all operations in Gaza, from the provinces and from Moscow and St. Petersburg, and normally lived in Ashdod, in Ashkelon and the towns which were exposed to rocket attacks. For them it was not just a kind of tourism as "tourism with elements of war", etc. with regard to Syria and there, from what Russian media writes, because "all right"! In Syria fly Russian planes, which are bombing ISIL, "who stopped the terrorists" and so on in the same spirit. I don't think Russians don't have this kind of situation could somehow be affected. Especially now they draw Parallels, for example, and with Europe, we can take for example the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium. The first theme, which rises in the Russian media after the attacks in Belgium, in France, that "in Israel this had to happen!" The man looks and says: "Yes, in Turkey it is impossible, in Egypt, the Islamists in Europe blow up! Where to go? To Israel!" – says Alexander Kogan.

Andrew Sharogradskaya, Alexander Gostev


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