From Israel’s standpoint, no changes have been made in the ongoing battle between the Israel Defense Forces and Iran, in what has come to be known as the “war between wars.”
The campaign against anything and everything that moves and could serve to bolster Hezbollah or the Iranians’ grip on the country continues apace. Intelligence officials have doubted the veracity of Russian reports that they’ve succeeded in intercepting Israeli missiles launched at the kind of targets of interest to Israel.
Declarations by a senior Russian officer that within the framework of coordination with the United States, the Americans told the Russians that they oppose Israeli strikes on Syria are also apparently false. The Russians are frustrated by their inability to effectively defend Syrian airspace.
At one point, one minister with close ties to then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Israel may have pushed things too far. After all, the Russians have needed to stand by and watch as Israel harms its partners in the Syrian civil war.
Since the Russians have not seen good results from Syrian military units, they have recently brought in advanced BUK-M2E missiles. Russian advisers have also served in Syrian anti-aircraft units in the past.
Nevertheless, things may have changed. Israel’s defensive campaign has begun to take on the appearance of what we saw in the War of Attrition in the Suez Canal. At that time, Soviet anti-aircraft units, as well as MiG fighter jets and Russian pilots, were stationed in Egypt. There was a great deal of friction between the sides, but Israel did not have a sufficient answer to Soviet anti-aircraft missiles at the time.
Ever since September 2015, there has been unprecedented coordination through open channels between Israel and the Russians stationed in Syria’s airport. The IDF attributed Israel’s freedom of action all these years to the personal talents of Netanyahu, who also maintained close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It may be that the new government’s decision to bolster ties with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration led to a certain shift in Russia’s approach to Israel. The Democratic administration is more hostile to Russia, accusing it of meddling in U.S. domestic affairs. Former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said a few weeks ago that the most pressing issue was to restore Israel-U.S. relations to their former state. Since ties were more than excellent under former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, the objective has been to improve ties with Democrats.
Israel will not alter its policy in Syria, and if need be, will operate in a more challenging environment—against a Russian opponent. What is lacking right now is a demonstration of the independence of the Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid-led government to renew understandings and ties with the Russian leadership.
The diplomatic ties and security coordination system that Netanyahu built could quickly disintegrate. Preaching against Russia and its leadership won’t help. Russia is not Poland. A coordination initiative is needed before Israel finds itself in a real crisis.
Amnon Lord is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper “Makor Rishon.” His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in “The Jerusalem Post,” “Mida,” “Azure,” “Nativ” and “Achshav.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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