NATO’s response to Russia’s troop movements in the Donbas will undoubtedly have global consequences, and Israel has already aired fears that its friendly relations with both Russia and America could complicate its “security interests” in the Middle East.
Citing an anonymous military official in a Monday report, Israel’s Walla news outlet notes that Tel Aviv’s “close ties with the US could jeopardize its coordination with Moscow vis-a-vis its operations in Syria,” voicing concern that the fresh American penalties could hinder its nearly decade-long airwar on the country.
“US sanctions against Russia put Israel in a very embarrassing position. The United States is a long-standing stable ally, but Israel needs Russia given the circumstances in the Middle East,” the official added.
In 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted an open secret, stating that his country had bombed Syria “hundreds” of times throughout its civil war with Islamist militants. While Tel Aviv insists it is acting against Iranian forces supporting the Syrian state, many of its strikes have hit densely populated cities and terrorized civilians – including areas near the capital of Damascus.
Publicly, Israeli officials are now attempting to strike a balance between Moscow and Washington. When asked whether Israel would impose its own sanctions on Russia in line with the American penalties, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had no clear answer, saying only that his government “will consider what course to take.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai was more direct, saying that Israel is avoiding “a clear public position” on the matter, though voiced “great hope” that the crisis “will end without fire, without casualties, and without a military confrontation.” He added, however, that, “Our heart is in the direction of the United States.”
While Israel may see the US sanctions as an impediment to its foreign policy objectives, they could carry a silver lining for Moscow. Alongside Iran, the Kremlin has long backed the Assad government in Syria, where it now maintains multiple military bases. Any halt in Israel’s bombing campaign will likely aid the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus alliance in routing out Syria’s remaining jihadist factions.
Will Porter contributed to this article.
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