When US President Donald Trump meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, both leaders will know exactly what Israel’s position is regarding Syria and Iran, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed this with Trump in a telephone call on Saturday, and with Putin during a faceto- face meeting in the Kremlin on Wednesday.The future of Syria, as well as Iran’s role in the country and the region, are expected to be high on the agenda of the Trump-Putin summit, with some speculating that Putin will offer to rid Syria of Iranian forces, if Trump gets the West to relieve the economic and diplomatic sanctions it clamped on Russia following its invasion and annexation of Crimea.Netanyahu, at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, said he spoke with Trump about “security and diplomatic issues in light of developments in the region, first and foremost about Syria and Iran.” He said these issues will be raised at the Helsinki meeting, and that he also discussed them with Putin.“I thanked President Trump for his strong policy against Iran because since this policy has been taken, we have seen a great impact on – and inside – Iran,” Netanyahu said.Netanyahu said that Trump, during the phone call, reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security and his willingness to assist Israel in different areas.
Last week in Moscow, Netanyahu told reporters that he and Putin discussed Syria and Iran in preparation for the Helsinki meeting. He also said that there was “total transparency” on this matter with Washington.Netanyahu said in Moscow that the Russians have pushed Iranian and Hezbollah fighters dozens of kilometers away from Israel’s borders.The question remains, however, whether Russia has the ability to expel the Iranians from Syria, especially since Tehran has spent so much money, and lost a large number of fighters buttressing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. One diplomatic official, when asked whether Israel felt that Russia could remove Iran from Syria, said that “it will not be easy, but that is the goal, and with a great deal of effort it can be achieved.” The official compared it to the goal of scuttling the nuclear deal with Iran, something that at once seemed farfetched, but which transpired to a large degree in May when Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Netanyahu says Israel will take strong action against Hamas terrorism, July 14, 2018 (PM of Israel Twitter)