Israel’s insurance policy

Source: Israel’s insurance policy ‎ – Israel Hayom

Ariel Kahana

One of Israel’s most important strategic assets was ‎severely rattled earlier this week. ‎

Nearly three years after its founding, the ‎Israeli-Russian deconfliction channel – an ‎operational hotline set up to prevent either side ‎from making a lethal mistake while operating in ‎Syrian airspace – sustained a serious blow in the ‎form of the downing of a Russian reconnaissance ‎plane by Syrian fire off the coast of Latakia. The ‎incident, in which all 15 Russian crew members were killed, took place on the heels of an Israeli ‎strike on Iranian assets there. ‎

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found this ‎incident especially troubling. The military ‎coordination mechanism is something he spared no ‎effort to establish, and the downing of the Russian ‎plane has proven a strenuous test for it, prompting ‎Netanyahu to burn the midnight oil in an effort to ‎salvage it. ‎

In a world of absolute truths, Israel cannot be held ‎responsible for the downing of a Russian plane by ‎Syrian anti-aircraft fire. In a hypocrisy-free global ‎arena, it would be up to Damascus to send ‎apologetic delegates to Moscow to explain to the ‎Russians why a plane making a scheduled landing was ‎shot down, and it would be up to Syrian Air Force ‎Commander Gen. Issam Hallaq – not Israeli Air Force ‎Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin – to appease the ‎Russians. ‎

Israel, however, is far too familiar with just how ‎relative truth is in international politics. In a ‎world where Russia is a global power and ‎President Vladimir Putin is a key player, facts take ‎a back seat to interests. ‎

For this reason, Syrian President Bashar Assad and ‎his troops, pathetic and foolish as they may be, ‎will not be made to pay a price for the tragedy they ‎caused. ‎

It is this world of power players and hypocritical ‎politics through which Netanyahu and the IDF must navigate.‎

Netanyahu, who understood quicker than most the ‎implications of the Russian involvement in the ‎Syrian civil war, was wise enough to come up with ‎the concept of the deconfliction channel and as time ‎went by, he was also wise enough to forge a unique ‎relationship with Putin that, from a security ‎standpoint, has proven exceptionally beneficial for ‎Israel.‎

Many Israeli pundits mocked the prime minister’s ‎frequent trips to the Kremlin and were quick to ‎criticize the deconfliction channel, but now, when ‎imminent danger has reared its head, they must ‎acknowledge Netanyahu’s accomplishments, which he is now trying to salvage.‎

This effort ‎does not pit tiny Israel against powerful Russia ‎but positions the two as almost equal. ‎Israel and Russia have maintained a pretty simple, and  ‎secret, deal: Israel will not harm one hair on ‎Assad’s head, as he is Putin’s ally, and in ‎exchange, Putin will turn a blind eye to Israeli ‎strikes on Iranian assets in Syria. ‎

Monday’s incident is testing this deal and the ‎trouble is, Israel is meeting this challenge at a ‎time when the threat – theoretical as it may be – of ‎harming Assad is far less relevant, as the end to ‎the Syrian civil war is almost here. ‎

As things stand, when even the international ‎community has come to terms with the fact that Assad ‎will remain in power, Israel would find harming him ‎difficult to justify. ‎Moreover, Israel may find that its hands are getting ‎increasingly tied with respect to its operations in ‎Syria. One can assume this is the complex dilemma ‎Netanyahu is now trying to resolve, but only time ‎will tell what solution he can devise. ‎

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