'Meeting more important for Putin than for Netanyahu'

Former Israeli Ambassador to Russia says outcome of Netanyahu-Putin meeting more important for Russia than for Israel.

Shimon Cohen,

Putin and Netanyahu
Putin and Netanyahu
Israeli Embassy in Russia/ Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are expected to discuss recent developments in the Syrian Civil War, including Iran's attempts to establish military bases in Syria.

Zvi Magen, former Israeli ambassador to Russia and current head of the Russian research program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), discussed the upcoming meeting between Netanyahu and Putin in an interview with Arutz Sheva.

According to Magen, this meeting will be aimed at achieving results rather than simply ending with empty declarations. "The background is clear: Russia is in charge of affairs in Syria and is doing so in coordination with the United States, which gave Syria the mandate to do this - including the mandate on the Iranian issue," he said. He recalled that when the Israeli delegation to Washington DC presented their complaints about the Syrian cease-fire agreement, their American counterparts told them that the matter was in Russia's hands.

However, Magen also notes that Israel is currently the most powerful nation in the region, and that fact gives Russia an interest in reaching understandings with Israel. That why, Magen explains, Putin made a point of meeting Netanyahu as soon as Russia became directly involved in the Syrian conflict. According to Magen, Putin understands Israel's military might and does not want to be accidentally drawn into a conflict with Israel.

In this context, Magen also mentions the outgoing commander of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), who stated that Israel has carried out approximately 100 airstrikes in Syria in recent years. He stated that this is another sign of Israel's military dominance in the region.

In light of these facts, Magen says that the meeting between Netanyahu and Putin is more in Putin's interest than Netanyahu's, since while it is important for Putin to regulate the moves of the most powerful nation in the region, it makes little difference to Israel, especially in its future dealings with Iran and its Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Russia will not be able to accept a reality in which Israel is forced to attack permanent Hezbollah and Iranian positions in Syria even after the civil war ends.

When asked about the possible pressure Putin could exert on Netanyahu, Magen said: "He tried to exert pressure on Netanyahu and that is the name of the profession, but we also exert pressure. We also have the ability to exert pressure. We have the ability to do more harm than all the others, and no one wants to deal with us. We have the power."

He emphasized that Russia has a clear interest in preventing friction and the resulting damage to its interests. "Russia is involved militarily, but its power is limited. It has 40 aircraft, some defenses, and that's it."

When he is asked to assess the outcome of the meeting, Magen says that in his opinion, and this is only an assessment, the parties will reach a compromise agreement in which, since "Russia cannot expel the Iranians even if she does not like them, she must commit to monitor the Iranians and to maintain certain red lines while taking their cause under its auspices. The Russians intend to be present in the next arrangements, while Israel will have freedom of action if things go beyond what is expected. It is a compromise because Israel claims at present that it will not be able to tolerate the Iranians in Syria in any situation, but it will have to accept a situation in which the Iranians will be under Russian supervision.