As far as much of the American public is concerned, the timing for U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin couldn’t be worse. The indictments of 12 Russian military intelligence officers on Friday renewed the calls for a tougher stance from the administration against Moscow. But with Trump determined to achieve some sort of détente with Russia, the indictments gave ammunition to his critics who see the meeting as appeasement or worse.
But while Americans are deeply divided about the highly politicized topic of relations with Russia, many Israelis seem to be taking a very different view of the situation. Israel’s government is openly rooting for Trump and Putin to agree to cooperate in removing or at least lessening what it considers to be the country’s greatest security threat: Iran’s military presence in Syria.
Despite this past weekend’s renewed rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has devoted most of his recent attention towards his own outreach project to Russia. Netanyahu did his best to flatter Putin during his visit last week to Russia but, unlike Trump, not even his most bitter critics are tossing around libelous accusations about him being a Russian agent. That’s because there is little doubt that the best chance for avoiding a new war rests on persuading Russia to force Iran to move its troops away from the border with Israel.
Netanyahu returned home hoping that the outline of an agreement with Russia over Syria had been reached. The parameters are straightforward. Israel would agree not to question the continuation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime now that the dictator’s Russian and Iranian allies have nearly completed their victory in the civil war. In exchange for the Israelis not disputing that mass murderer’s hold on power, the Russians would force the Iranians to pull back their forces, as well as their Hezbollah auxiliaries, and otherwise prevent Tehran from turning Syria into another front in their war on Israel.
As long as the Syrians abide by the terms of the ceasefire that Henry Kissinger negotiated between the respective governments led by Golda Meir and Assad’s equally murderous father Hafez in 1974, it sounds like a reasonable deal to the Israelis. But they are also hoping that Trump can help provide Russia with a motive for restraining Iran, if not evicting it altogether from Syria.
The questions about this strategy are twofold.
One concerns whether both Israel and the United States are wrong to believe that Putin has any real intention of pushing Iran out of Syria or keeping a lid on the potential for conflict with the Jewish state.
The other rests on whether sweet-talking or even bribing the Russians to help on Iran is worth the price that Putin might expect the United States to pay: acquiescing to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, as well as sending a signal that future efforts to reassemble the old Soviet empire might also be accepted by the Americans.
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Source: Christian Post