Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow, April 4th, in Moscow for talks on regional conflicts. The two leaders have spoken on the phone in the past few days to discuss Israel’s concerns over Russia's approach to Iran's military buildup in Syria.
While some have complained that the visit so close to next week’s national election only serves to boost Netanyahu's chances at the polls, the timing is both strategic and crucial.
In preparation for meeting, Netanyahu told Israel Hayom, “I've succeeded in ensuring that we have freedom of movement in dealing with the Russian army (in Syria), and that was no small amount of effort. If Iran entrenches itself in Syria, we won't even be able to compare the threat to the other branch of radical Islam, in Gaza.”
Moscow continues to play Russian roulette with Middle East terror. While trying to appear friendly to both sides, Moscow works closely with Israel’s lethal enemy, Iran. Russia already operates numerous military forces in Syria, including 50-year commitments to run large naval and air bases in Tartus and Latakia along the Mediterranean seaboard. Recent Israeli intelligence reports have expressed concern that Russia is in the process of turning the Latakia naval base over to Iran, which would give Tehran a dangerous foothold in the Mediterranean.
So far, Putin has turned a blind eye to most of Israel's military strikes against Iranian assets and allies, including Hezbollah, in both Syria and Lebanon. Over the last several years, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Syrian targets in order to keep the Iranians from establishing a presence in the country. The IDF has been vigilant in preventing the transfer of advanced weapons systems to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which is a constant threat to Israel’s northern border.
To insure Israel’s ability to defend itself from attack, Netanyahu met Putin on February 27. “The greatest threat to stability and security in the region comes from Iran and its satellites. We are determined to continue with our aggressive action against the efforts of Iran, which calls for our destruction, and against its attempts to entrench militarily in Syria,” the prime minister told the Russian president.
But after years of tacit approval for Israel’s defensive strikes on Iranian installations in and around Russian-controlled parts of Syria, Moscow is now taking a harder line against Israeli intervention. The casualty numbers in Syria are staggering. At the end of 2018, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 500,000 Syrians had been killed by the Syrian government and its allies. Statistics on injuries are no longer counted. As of November 2018, more than 5.6 million Syrians had fled the country, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and more than six million were displaced internally — about half the population.
The fighting in Syria is now over who will control the wreckage of what used to be nation. A new axis of evil has quickly formed along Israel’s northern border between Russia, Turkey, Iran and Hezbollah. And as Scripture tells us, “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” The US decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic Golan Heights, which serve as a buffer between Syria and the Jewish state, could not have come at a better time.
In Moscow, Netanyahu needs to make clear to the Russian premier that Israel has no choice but to prevent Iran from entrenching in Syria. In his pre-trip interview with Israel Hayom, Netanyahu said that this would be the main subject he will be discussing with President Putin.