Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week, the Israeli premier’s office said in a brief statement on Tuesday.
The pair will meet on Wednesday, July 11.
Netanyahu and Putin meet regularly to discuss regional issues, notably the conflict in Syria and their mutual interests in the war.
Despite being on opposing sides of the conflict, Russia and Israel have teamed up recently in an attempt to curb the influence of Iranian-backed militias including Hizballah fighting alongside Assad’s forces in southern Syria.
The two leaders last met in Moscow in May.
On Tuesday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel is keen for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power and defeat the opposition now that Tel Aviv holds leverage with him through Russia.
Six years after the start of the Syrian conflict – triggered by the regime’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011 – Israel “is acting as if it is now reformulating its policy and becoming reconciled to Assad’s continued rule”, wrote Zvi Bar’el on Tuesday.
This marks a departure from Israel’s initial position in which it remained largely neutral in the conflict, with the exception of providing limited assistance to fringe rebel groups near the border, in the hope of establishing a Syrian buffer zone. Airstrikes inside Syria are meant to contain Iran’s military footprint there.
The new shift in Israel’s position is primarily linked to the close relationship between Tel Aviv and Moscow, Assad’s most important international ally.
The Russians have allegedly given Israel a great say on what happens in Syria, with Moscow giving Israel “a free hand to attack Hizballah and Iranian targets in Syria,” the report suggested.
In addition, Israel’s goal to oust Iran from Syria can only be achieved in agreement with Assad via Russia: “the only power capable of limiting Iran’s operations there and perhaps even getting it to leave.”
This has “added the Israelis to the unofficial coalition of Arab states that support Assad’s continued rule”, added Bar’el, in reference to Egypt, which has provided backing for the Syrian regime.
In return, Israel has reportedly promised Moscow not to undermine Assad’s rule, the report claims.
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