With the Russian Bear firmly entrenched on Middle Eastern soil, a whirlwind of strategic negotiations and bickering partnerships have come to fruition.
As the Syrian war rages, the sweet and sour relationship between Russia and Israel has been an intriguing one. If we consider that the Soviet Union was one of the first entities to recognise the State of Israel in 1948 and that currently, over a million Israelis are of Russian decent, a natural, fluid partnership seems fitting. Israel understands the importance of Russia which is now firmly stationed in Syria, but how will this impact on the political dynamics of this already extremely complex region? There exists a number of very interesting reasons for the bilateral engagement between these two nations.
At a recent news conference Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that the Israel-US alliance remains the "cornerstone' of Israel's foreign policy.
Nevertheless as we see a warming of relations between Israel-Russia ultimately brought together by Russia's sudden entrance into the region, Israel is looking to diversify its range of strategic partners to guarantee its security. One major security threat towards Israel stems from Iran and the development of its Nuclear programme. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been vocally opposed to the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, giving them the green light to develop nuclear energy for non military purposes. As a result the imagine of an omnipotent US who actively sets out to safeguard the Israeli State has been tainted. Therefore the common fears of Islamic extremism and the longing for a stable political situation on the ground have brought about a stronger Israel-Russia partnership.
Both Israel and Russia are currently undertaking military missions in Syria, thus the need for strong communication channels is vital. Miscommunication appeared to be the fundamental reason the the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in November 2015, this type of mishap will want to be avoided at all costs.
On the opposite side of the table, as Russia’s military embeds itself within the Middle East with a long term vision in mind, Daragh McDowell, principal analyst, Europe and Central Asia at Verisk Maplecroft stated additionally that:
“Co-operation with Israel brings a greater knowledge of regional actors, particularly in the field of counter-terrorism”
Therefore the sophisticated technology and military capabilities which Israel possesses, Moscow will greatly appreciate.
Russia’s relationship has never been a stable or strong one, however looking at the situation at hand, Israel and Russia are looking for ways to support each other. The Israeli newspaper HAARETZ recently stated that
“Ties between Israel and Russia have never been strong.”
Nevertheless, we must take this blossoming relationship with a pinch of salt, in late July Russia admitted to operating a stray drove which flew into Israeli airspace, triggering a (failed) armed response. Many have questioned as to weather or not this was an was intentional act by Russia to test of the Israeli defence capabilities. In addition Russia continues to sell arms to Iran and Hezbollah which has caused alarm bells in Tel Aviv.
Israel views Russia an important mediator between Iran and its proxies and a close relationship with Russia is a hedge against the EU and US who continue to raise issues over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are muscling their way into Middle Eastern diplomacy without having boots on the ground.
Author: Nuša - Serbian - History Student