Russia-Israel: Red Lines for Putin and Netanyahu

Although the results of the agreements between the leaders of Russia and Israel are not exactly known, the Russian leadership certainly got full information about what actions Israel is willing to take if any side of the conflict in Syria crosses the “red line”, says Valdai Club expert Dmitry Maryasis.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin. The two leaders discussed bilateral relations and regional problems, including the Syrian settlement. According to Dmitry Maryasis, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Israel, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the conversation was substantive and probably involved maps and action plans. This is evidenced by the composition of the Israeli delegation, which included general Gadi Eysenkot, head of the General Staff, general Herzi Halevy, head of the Military Intelligence and Yossi Cohen, Mossad chief. In turn, the Russian interlocutors included Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

No official statements were made on the results of the meeting, so it is impossible to know exactly what Russians promised Netanyahu, Maryasis said in an interview with But one can be absolutely sure about two things. First, according to the expert, the Russian leadership got full information about what Israel is ready to do if the “red lines” are crossed. These “red lines” were conveyed to the Russian leadership, and it can make decisions based on this knowledge, Maryasis stressed. Second, Russia is ready to take into account the Israeli security interests in establishing peaceful life in the postwar Syria.

According to Maryasis, the only interest of Israel in the Syrian conflict is the security of its borders. In this context, the main issue of concern is the position of Iran, which is perceived in Israel as the main threat. “As the ‘hot’ stage of the war comes to an end and a gradual, slow, and difficult peaceful settlement begins, Israel is very afraid that if Iranian forces remain in Syria, they will be a direct threat to it, something Israel is not ready to tolerate,” he said. “This is a ‘red line’. Israel says that it will ‘deal with it proactively,’ which means military solution of the problem.” Maryasis recalled that over the past year the Israeli air force carried out about a hundred airstrikes on caravans with weapons, which were moving to Hezbollah bases in Syria.

In addition, Israel can take active measures, if Iran is going to build a missile plant in Lebanon. “It is clear in what direction they will be launched,” Maryasis said. “Israel is not ready to tolerate it. It has declared that if Russia, the United States or anyone else does not manage to remove this issue from the agenda, and Iran will still build this plant, Israel has no other choice but to prevent the possibility of its creation.”

Meanwhile for Russia, it is important that Israel should coordinate with Moscow any measures that might threaten the Russian presence in Syria. Such coordination already exists, the expert noted, but it must be improved. “It is necessary that Israel does not cross the line in the sense that if it carries out any airstrikes, these strikes must be pinpointed and serve the declared goal, that is, to prevent the strengthening of Hezbollah and other factions which could threaten the security of Israel,” stressed.

In addition, according to Maryasis, the two leaders could discuss the Iran nuclear deal. Shortly before his visit to Moscow, Netanyahu had a conversation with US President Donald Trump at the International Economic Forum in Davos. “As a result of this conversation, Netanyahu most likely gave some information to Putin – in particular, about the Iran deal. Probably, the leaders discussed how to reformat this deal so that, on the one hand, it remains in force, and on the other, the US does not attempt to get out of it,” Maryasis concluded.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.