Israel in Contact With Russia on Syria as 'Moscow's Role in Expanding' -
In an interview with Sputnik, Yakov Kedmi, a former high-ranking Israeli
intelligence official, shared his thoughts on Israel’s foreign policy in
light of the Syria crisis, its relations with the US and Russia and the move
to withdraw from UNESCO.
On Iran’s Military 'Presence' in Syria
Commenting on a recent statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu that Tel Aviv would not tolerate Tehran’s military presence in
Syria, Kedmi emphasized that the country wants neither Iran nor pro-Iranian
Shiite groups’ present on Syria’s soil. At the same time, according to the
analyst, this rhetoric also serves the domestic agenda.
"The goal is to find a threat to distract public attention from domestic
issues and from the complicated situation Netanyahu and his supporters have
found themselves in. But Tel Aviv really doesn’t want Iranian military bases
in Syria. But I think there is a little chance that it is possible despite
Tehran’s intention to do so," Kedmi told Sputnik Serbia.
In October, the US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, with Tel Aviv
following in Washington’s footsteps. According to Kedmi, the actions by the
two countries were not coordinated and Trump used "UNESCO’s anti-Israel
position" to promote his own policy.
"However, the situation has changed since then and Israel is now in a
complicated situation. The organization is now headed by a Jewish woman who
served as culture minister in France. She’s unlikely to continue UNESCO’s
openly anti-Israeli policy," Kedmi said.
On Relations With Russia and the US Over Syria
According to Kedmi, Israel and Russia maintain contacts on the situation on
Syria via two channels.
"We’re not talking about what the both countries agree on. Neither Russia
nor Israel is interested in a confrontation over Syria. Thus, our contacts
are focused on preventing on this technical issue, on preventing clashes
between our military forces," he said.
The other issue Israel is discussing with Russia is the situation in Syria
after the war ends.
"Russia’s influence in the Middle East and on the future political process
in Syria is expanding and Israel wants his message to be heard by Russia.
Tel Aviv wants any armed Shia groups out of Syria after the end of the
conflict. Israel’s interest is to prevent any threat to its security from
Syria. As for the other processes in Syria, it is for the Syrian people to
decide," the analyst said.
Kedmi also stressed that Israel is not balancing between the US and Russia
when it comes to the situation in Syria because Tel Aviv has no official
position toward the conflict.
"Israel is only interested in preventing threats to its security and doesn’t
meddle in other issues concerning Syria. Tel Aviv never supported
anti-Damascus, pro-American, pro-Turkish or any other forces. This is our
policy and we’re not meddling in the situation in Syria. Washington may not
like that but there is no balancing between the US and Russia," he pointed
On the Situation in the Gaza Strip
Kedmi made a cautious assumption, saying that normalization cannot be ruled
in the future.
"The recent events show that despite opposition from both sides we’re moving
toward the resolution of the crisis. First of all, I’m talking about the
reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and the restoration of autonomy in
the Gaza Strip. Some say that the US, Egypt and Saudi Arabia was behind
this, which increases the chance of the conflict being settled," he said,
adding that those recent efforts would bring near the day when all parties
involved will sit down at the negotiating table.
On Attitude Toward Russian President Putin in Israel
According to the analyst, the attitude toward Russia and its leadership in
Israel is affected by the fact that Israeli people are often misinformed by
media about Moscow’s foreign policy and the Russian president.
"But there are some very important factors that should not be ignored,
including Russian-speaking people in Israel, [Russian President Vladimir]
Putin’s friendly policy toward Israel and the recent events in Syria. As a
result, the attitude to Russia and the Russian president in Israel is better
than in Europe," Kedmi said.
On the West Jerusalem Problem
Kedmi pointed out that in April 2016, Russia recognized West Jerusalem as
Israel’s capital, a move that was proposed by US President Donald Trump, but
Washington has not yet done that.
"No other country did it. For the last 20 years, the US president has vowed
to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but nothing has been
done. What Putin did is beyond the understanding and capabilities of
American policymakers," he said.