How Could Russia-Israel Controversy over Ukraine Affect Israel's Operations in Syria?

- MIDDLE EAST FORUM - Seth J. Frantzman - MAY 3, 2022 -

Israeli fighter aircraft have struck targets in Syria as Russian ground forces support the Assad regime. New tensions may complicate things.

Israel and Russia have had an amicable understanding regarding Syria since Moscow intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015. Under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that relationship was important and was managed in a complex and cautious way.



That does not mean Netanyahu's management of the Russia issue always worked; there was criticism by Moscow of Israeli actions in Syria, but the relations continued nonetheless.


Now, with new tensions between Israel and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, and inflammatory comments from Russia's foreign minister, there are questions about whether there will be consequences for their wider relationship.


The current Israeli government has attempted to continue the modus vivendi in Syria. This means Russia backs the Syrian regime while Israel operates against Iranian entrenchment. Airstrikes targeting that entrenchment have gone on for years.


However, previous reports in The Jerusalem Post have indicated that losing the security measures in place with the Russians in Syria would be a strategic problem for the IAF as Jerusalem continues to maintain a diplomatic balance over the war in Ukraine.


What this means for the so-called "war between wars" campaign is that Israel might suddenly find some issues more complex. But what does this mean in practice? Here are several scenarios:


The first scenario is that everything remains the same. Russia and Israel see Syria as one file, and they can work on that. And while they may not share the same view of the Ukraine conflict, they may also have some shared interests elsewhere.


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