As Russian president Vladimir Putin wraps up his Middle East tour visiting Jordan, after starting out in Israel, and moving on to The Palestinian Authority, one may ask what parties objectives were achieved over the past few days...
As Russian president Vladimir Putin wraps up his Middle East tour visiting Jordan, after starting out in Israel, and moving on to The Palestinian Authority, one may ask what parties objectives were achieved over the past few days, apart from Inaugurating a Red-Army monument in Netanya Israel, a Russian cultural and language center in Bethlehem PA, and a Jordanian Greek Orthodox 40-room guest house.
Achievements, if any, on the Israeli side are slight and secret according to the press: Ostensibly a move on Russians position on Iranian matters, discussions on the fragile situation in Syria, and relaying Netanyahu's message to the Palestinians. Putin travelled South East to discuss state matters and the strengthening of Russian-Palestinian relationship in Bethlehem with Abbas, and summed up his trip by crossing over to Jordan where regional issues were discussed, the situation in Syria, as well as tourism and trade which is on the rise.
To put some of the guessing aside I spoke to Dr. Alon Liel, an expert on Israeli foreign policy, consultant on Turkey and relations with it and regional diplomacy, former Director General – Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Former Foreign Affairs Advisor to Ehud Barak, Former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, to name afew of the positions he held.
JG: Dr. Liel, your experience and knowledge of the region are vast: What in your opinion was the purpose of Putin's visit in the area, and Israel's agenda as well?
DL: Jack, you know I have a "soft spot" for Syrian affairs, so I will begin with that. Supposedly Putin and Mr. Netanyahu discussed the events in Syria. I believe the discussion was one-sided: Putin updated Netanyahu and that was it, and this also served as one of Netanyahu's diversions which I believe he is involved in, from the main issue which is the Palestinian problem. I also have criticism as to the Israeli stand on the Syrian Humanitarian issues…
JG: Please explain.
DL: Firstly, President Shimon Peres with his prestige and international status as advocate for peace, as well as PM Netanyahu, should have voiced their concerns and Israeli repulse from the Syrian regime's conduct. That was not conveyed and President Putin is the proper person to convey it too… In addition, this was planned to be a private visit by the Russian leader in the area, and the Israeli leaders upgraded it to a State visit, even though they shouldn’t have. This brings me back to Netanyahu's plan to make it all "Iran"…
JG: What do you think was discussed and what are the interests regarding Iran?
DL: Well, I am doubtful that we will know what military issues were discussed if any between Netanyahu and Putin, and I do not question Netanyahu's sincere measures to secure our country and seek assistance from a superpower. I do however wish to point out the PM's mastery and unbelievably successful attempts to move the focus from the key issue which is the Palestinian talks in any form, to Iran, Syria and other strategic talks, important as they may be.
JG: Speculations by some claim that Putin is disturbed by the Islamic regimes that are taking over in what is called "The Arab spring", and the string of nations governed by Islamic governments from "The Magreb states" /North Africa, through Mursi's new Egypt, through Syria which may well fall in the hands of Islamic hands, up to the Russian Caucuses. Furthermore, Putin may have the same concerns that Netanyahu has regarding this issue.
DL: I don't quite understand your question…
JG: Maybe I should rephrase: Do you think that the two leaders have the same concerns and therefore got together on this issue?
DL: Well, I can very well believe it all goes back to the same issue I've mentioned about Netanyahu: Yes, I can believe he and his administration have tried to promote the "Muslim countries path" leading to Russia's doorstep to the Russians in that way, but it is all part of the greater plan of moving everyone's attention to Iran, while persisting in disregarding the heart of the Middle Eastern issue: The talks with the Palestinians.
JG: In summary, we have your views on Israeli objectives. What about Putin's agenda?
DL: It is clear that there were minor issues and inaugurations, but in general Putin got what he came for: Russia has strategic interests in the Arab world – always has. Strengthening those ties in the Middle East and maybe even broadening his influence with Israel and it's neighbors was all he needed this time 'round and got.
JG: Thank you Dr. Liel
Dr. Alon Liel Expert consultant on commerce in Turkey and specialist in Israeli foreign affairsand the Middle East