Russia becomes a player on critical Israeli fronts

Both Trump and Abbas are relying more heavily on Russia to play a larger role in their relations with Israel.

February 13, 2018 07:51
1 minute read.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON – Senior Trump administration officials, including the president, have turned to Moscow in recent days in hopes of diffusing a sharp military escalation between Israeli forces and those of Iran and its allies along the Golan Heights border.

Israel finds itself increasingly reliant on Russia to quell its most pressing diplomatic and national security concerns as it faces Iranian adventurism on its northern borders and an irritated Palestinian leader seeking to internationalize his cause.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s been to Moscow,” one senior US State Department official noted on Monday, in a briefing with reporters traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson across the region.

“The Russians certainly understand the character of that threat,” the official said. “The party that doesn’t seem to appreciate the consequences are the Iranians, and Hezbollah with Iran, and that worries us.”

Israeli media noted that a phone call between Netanyahu and Putin coincided with an end to Israel’s largest assault on Iranian and Syrian regime assets in Syria in several years.

And on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with US President Donald Trump, who had called to express condolences over the downing of a Russian passenger jet with 71 on board.

Then they discussed issues of “mutual concern.”

“President Putin noted that he would meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later today, and President Trump said that now is the time to work toward an enduring peace agreement,” the White House said. Russian state media were even more detailed, claiming it was Putin who was pushing for a peace effort – one with Moscow at the table.

Abbas’s visit was part of his sustained campaign to minimize America’s historic role in the conflict – a goal that Putin holds for US influence in the region writ large.

“We state that from now on we refuse to cooperate in any form with the US in its status of a mediator,” Abbas said in Moscow.

The senior State Department official traveling with Tillerson declined to comment.

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