Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained Russia's possible interests in cooperating with Israel on Thursday during a discussion organized by a New York-based think tank.
"I think Russia has variegated interests. The first interest is to make sure militant Islam does not penetrate and destabilize Russia."
Netanyahu addressed the crowd gathered for the Hudson Institute's annual gala at the iconic Plaza Hotel.
"There are many many millions of Muslims in Russia, including in greater Moscow, I think it's up to two million. And the concern that Russia has, which many countries have is that these populations would be radicalized… First thing is, block militant islam at its source, especially the Daesh [Islamic State] phenomenon. For that they make strange alliances," he added.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has hosted the Israeli leader three times in the last year, during which the two leaders agreed they want to avoid a clash with each other, Netanyahu said.
"I said (to Putin), we can actually have our forces shoot down each other's planes… or we can avoid it. So periodically we have to sort of tighten the bolts, because not everything that is said at the top necessarily reaches the bottom levels, field levels. They do on the Israeli side, but they don't necessarily always do so on the other side. So the second thing is we want to avoid a clash. What is Mr. Putin's interest? He definitely doesn't want that to happen."
With Russian forces fighting alongside Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power, Putin is the closest thing to a guarantor that Israel's three most potent enemies will not attack it from the north.
Netanyahu can offer Putin reciprocal Israeli restraint in Syria, where Russia maintains a strategic Mediterranean base, and a chance to play a greater role in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking that has long been dominated by the United States.
At Thursday's event Netanyahu was handed the Herman Kahn award by the institute for his "lifetime of unparallel service defending, transforming and strengthening Israel."
Earlier in the day Netanyahu gave a speech at the United Nations General Assembly's 71st session in which he invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to address the Knesset.