PRIME MINISTER BENNETT MEETS WITH PUTIN

BLOG 541

November 8, 2021

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.

PRIME MINISTER BENNETT MEETS WITH PUTIN

Insight into what is transpiring in the Middle East often comes from clandestine meetings that the public only learns about years later. However, the recent conference between two heads of state may give us some clues.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s October summit with Vladimir Putin ran overtime. Its unscheduled five-hour duration meant that the prime minister could not return to Israel before Shabbat, and was stuck in Sochi until Saturday night. Yet Bennett’s time with the Russian president was well spent.

Bennett needed to maintain Israel’s freedom of action in Syria. Since the outbreak of the civil war a decade ago, and the ensuing growth of Iran’s presence, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has repeatedly targeted Iranian positions and those of its proxy Hezbollah. Tehran’s pretext for involvement was to bolster its ally Bashar Assad, but the larger goal was to transform Syria into an Iranian satellite, a forward position from which to threaten Israel.

Israel decided not to merely observe the growing Iranian buildup, but to adopt a policy of active preemption. The logic of the Israeli strategy mirrored that of the United States in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when President John Kennedy declared that the mere positioning of Soviet missiles in the Western Hemisphere was an unacceptable provocation, irrespective of a decision on their actual use. From Jerusalem’s perspective, the Iranians’ deployment was in itself illegitimate, necessitating a robust Israeli response.

However, in September 2015 a new factor arose. The Kremlin made a decision to intervene directly in Syria with its own forces in support of Assad. The Iranians and Russians were now fighting on the same side of the civil war. In these circumstances, it could no longer be a forgone conclusion that Israel would still be able to continue striking against Iranian positions without incurring the wrath of Russia.

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu understood that Russia’s upgraded role in Syria was a game-changer. Prudently, he made the uncharacteristic decision not to join the United States and other NATO countries in publicly criticizing the Kremlin’s decision. Instead, Netanyahu expeditiously flew to Moscow for a face-to-face meeting with Putin, where he successfully reached a series of understandings that safeguarded Israel’s freedom of action.

Avoiding such a clash  (“deconfliction” in the language of the experts ) was crucial, but Prime Minister Bennett’s dialogue with the Russian leader held greater implications. It was vital to start a conversation with the Kremlin about developments in Syria and the future of that war-torn country, an exchange that sought convergence between the dictates of Israel’s national security and Russia’s interests in the Middle East that date back to the days of the czars.

Such a discussion was possible because unlike Iran, Russia is not overtly hostile toward Israel. On the contrary, Putin has declared his friendship toward the Jewish people and the Jewish state, solidarity he emphasized during his various official visits to Jerusalem in January 2020.

All in all, a  good step forward for the Middle East.

I have a new book coming out.

MAN ON FIRE can be ordered at the local book store. 

I can make copies available at:

Rev. Robert L. Wise, PO Box 22716 , Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 731203

Cost is $15.00 plus the shipping fee.

I hope you’ll avail yourself of this inspiring story!

Also these fine books are available now:

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Filed under History, Russia, The Middle East

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