While in Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israelis would “continue to operate” against Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.
Netanyahu said that he and Putin mostly discussed the deployment of Russian S-300 air defense systems in Syria. Russia transferred the systems to Syria following the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian anti-aircraft fire this past September.
The prime minister, who was accompanied to Moscow by Major General Tamir Hyman, Israel’s chief of military intelligence, said that he shared intelligence with Putin. Though no details were made public, it is believed that the information concerned Iran’s deployment in Syria.
“Israel will continue to operate as it needs to protect itself from Iranian aggression in Syria,” Netanyahu said. The prime minister added that he emphasized that Israel intends to protect itself in coordination with Russia in order to prevent friction between the two.
This was Netanyahu’s first extended meeting with Putin since the downing of the Russian plane sparked a diplomatic crisis.
The Kremlin had accused Israel of “premeditated actions” leading to the downing of the plane and warned that the incident would harm relations between the two countries. The Israeli military, however, said that Syria’s indiscriminate air defense fire was the cause of the accident. The Il-20 electronic intelligence plane was hit 35km off Syria’s Mediterranean coast as it returned to its nearby base.
Netanyahu noted that, overall, this was the eleventh meeting between the two leaders since Russia became actively involved in the Syrian civil war in 2015. He described the relationship with the Russian president as a “brick” that prevented friction between the two nations’ militaries, thus enhancing security in the region.
The prime minister noted that tourism between the two nations is booming. Some 400,000 Russian visited Israel, and 200,000 Israelis visited Russia last year. Netanyahu also paid tribute to the “the over 1 million Russian-speakers who have contributed greatly to Israel, have become part of us and have brought the Russian culture as part of Israeli culture.”
Despite the tension resulting from the shootdown of the Russian plane, Netanyahu insisted that “we will do whatever is necessary to protect Israel’s security,” in the wake of the incident.
[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]