Israel sees ascendant Putin / AL MONITOR

 14 März 2016 …….. Ben Caspit further explains that Erdogan’s painfully weak hand is magnified by Russia’s enhanced strategic importance for Israeli decision-makers.“Putin wins out decisively on all counts: The path he adopted in Syria has upgraded Russia’s status in the region and beyond. Almost overnight, Russia has become an influential and dominant world power.

Russia’s deep involvement in Syria proved itself a successful bet. Russia changed the regional reality, redirecting the bloody conflict from a dead end to another path, transformed Assad from a loser to a winner and reshuffled the cards in a Russian display of power and determination. Recently, I quoted a very highly placed Israeli military source as saying ‘even if a Russian jet flies over Tel Aviv, we will not take it down.’ There are endless reasons for the coordination and closeness between Israel and Russia, and Israel’s strategic decision not to do anything to rub the Russians the wrong way.

“Israel is now working diligently on tightening ties with Russia at almost any price. Higher-ups in Jerusalem, including in Tel Aviv’s security apparatus, are optimistic. According to senior Israeli sources, the Russians are cognizant of the damage perpetrated by the ‘axis of evil’ and have no intentions of letting Iran become a patron of Syria. Even with regard to Hezbollah, they understand Israel’s stance and are now reconsidering their missile deal with Tehran. The Russians have their own interests to promote, and they have no special commitment to Hezbollah. They will burn the candle at both ends, trying not to become embroiled in a crisis with Iran in an era when all the world’s global companies are trying to dive into the Iranian economy. On the other hand, they don’t want to help Iran gain the enormous power that it hopes to. Israel, meanwhile, is busy maneuvering within this game plan, while scoring a few considerable achievements for itself.”

This column, two years ago, identified a trend that Russia could be central to a broader, regional conversation to defuse tensions between Israel and Iran over Hezbollah. Caspit’s reporting reveals that Israeli national security decision-makers increasingly recognize the role that Russia can play in regional security. As UN-brokered peace talks are scheduled to resume March 14, there also seems a clear recognition in Washington that progress toward settlement of the region’s conflicts, beginning in Syria, benefits from collaboration with Moscow and avoiding getting drawn into the sectarian intrigues and proxy wars of the regional powers.