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Russia recalibrates coordination with new Israeli government in Syria

There are indications the Kremlin is about to revise its approach to Israel in order to force the Israel Defense Forces into accepting new rules of the regional game.
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images

The end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s grip on power in Israel fueled media speculation of what it means for Russian-Israeli coordination in Syria. Sources in Israeli, Lebanese, Saudi and Russian media outlets already began discussing the prospect of an impending crisis between the two countries. The memories have not faded from autumn 2018, when a Russian II-20 reconnaissance plane was hit by Syrian air defenses during the Israeli airstrikes, causing a scandal between Moscow and Israel.

Al-Monitor columnist Ben Caspit has noted Israel’s unease with the possibility of Russia changing its position on Syria. Publicly, the comments indicating a change are largely limited to Russian Defense Ministry’s claims about its supposed success in repelling Israeli missiles with the aid of the Russian/Soviet-made air defense systems. Caspit’s sources among Israeli security officials said that Russia’s bullish rhetoric is little more than a tactical ruse, yet both the target of this rhetoric and its strategic purpose remain unclear. Moreover, Russia’s claims are contradicted by images of targets hit by Israeli missiles in Damascus and Aleppo.

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