Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Is it good or bad for the Jews? - Dan Margalit

by Dan Margalit

Israel is watching with some uncertainty as the Russian military leaves Syria.

The entire world, including Israel, was surprised by Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision on Monday to pull Russian military forces out of Syria. With the benefit of hindsight, analysts will claim they knew this move was coming. But, of course, they did not tell us beforehand. The motives behind Putin's decision are still unclear, so it is impossible to answer the age-old question: Is it good or bad for the Jews?

Assuming we are entering a new situation and the Russian move is not in fact a tactical retreat in advance of a future renewed offensive, it stands to reason that Putin reached the conclusion that he had achieved the best possible results in Syria and there was nothing to be gained by staying there. Indeed, a cease-fire is now in place in Syria and the world knows this would not have happened were it not for Russia's airstrikes. Russia paid a low price for its military intervention in Syria and it can always send its forces back there if the need arises.

Only those who know what Putin told Syrian President Bashar Assad during their telephone call on Monday can answer the question of what prompted Russia's move. Was it based on the premise that the Assad regime has stabilized its grip on power? Or was it meant to force the Assad regime to make concessions to Russia's liking?

Russia's intervention in Syria worsened its relations with Turkey. Perhaps Putin now wants to reverse that trend. Will warmer ties with Putin lessen Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's interest in reconciling with Israel and buying Israeli natural gas? No one knows.

The West is dumbfounded as it struggles to decipher Putin's actions. Only a rapid collapse of the cease-fire in Syria could dent Russia's prestige now. Everyone knows Putin is the key player in determining Syria's future.

At first, Israel was concerned by Russia's intervention, but the coordination mechanism that was established put Israel at ease. So now, Israel is watching with some uncertainty as Russia leaves the scene. Russia's military presence in Syria somewhat mitigated the chances of a clash between Israel and Iran (and the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group). If Israel now finds itself under fire again from Iran and Hezbollah, it will have greater freedom of action due to the Russian military pullout from Syria. But Israel has no interest in such a conflict erupting.

Dan Margalit


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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