We Don't Want Adversarial Relationship with Russia

Prime Minister tells CNN Israel wants to avoid a situation in which its goals clash with those of Russia.

Ben Ariel ,

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says Israel wants to avoid an adversarial relationship with Moscow and is unsure how Russia's recent military intervention in Syria will affect the situation there.

Netanyahu’s comments were made in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, which will air on Sunday and of which Reuters quoted excerpts on Saturday.

In the interview, Netanyahu did not join the United States and other NATO nations in criticizing Russia's taking military action in Syria.

"We don't want to go back to the days when, you know, Russia and Israel were in an adversarial position," he said, adding, "I think we've changed the relationship. And it's, on the whole, good."

Russia is a backer of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, who is also is backed by Iran, Israel's ardent foe and supporter of Hezbollah. Netanyahu noted that Israel is concerned that Russian weapons being deployed in Syria could end up with Hezbollah.

"I went to Moscow to make it clear that we should avoid a clash between Russian forces and Israeli forces," he was quoted as having told Zakaria.

"In Syria, I've defined my goals. They're to protect the security of my people and my country. Russia has different goals. But they shouldn't clash," continued Netanyahu, adding Israel and Russia would talk soon about the situation.

Russia this past week conducted its first airstrikes in Syria. An Israeli military source told Arutz Sheva that Israel, too, had been notified in advance, via a mechanism reached between Jerusalem and Moscow during Netanyahu's recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Asked by Zakaria if Russia's entry in the Syrian conflict would be destabilizing, Netanyahu said, "I don't know. I think time will tell."

Netanyahu signaled that Russian deployment would not deter Israel from continuing to take occasional military action in Syria.

"If anybody wants to use Syrian territory to transfer nuclear weapons to Hezbollah, we'll take action," "And we continue to do that."

Netanyahu also referred to the Iranian nuclear deal in the CNN interview, hinting that he was prepared to move on from his criticism of it following his speech before the United Nations.

"I'm not going to rehash the deal," he was quoted by Reuters as having said. "... Let's look forward. Let's keep Iran's feet to the fire. Let's make sure that they keep all their obligations under the nuclear deal."

The comments appear to be in line with ones made by American officials who were quoted by Haaretz on Friday.

According to those officials, Netanyahu informed the administration that his UN speech would be his swansong on his public fight against the accord, and he would now move on to talking about what comes next and the ways in which the United States and Israel will jointly deal with Iran and its subversive activities in the region.