Shortly before US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Jerusalem Tuesday night, Nov. 5, the Russian president’s office announced that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would pay a short working visit to Moscow on Nov. 20 for talks with President Vladimir Putin.
debkafile’s sources: The Israeli leader has determined to explore the route trodden by Saudi Arabia, Gulf Emirates and Egypt, who - feeling let down by the Obama administration’s decision to pull out of the Middle East, and concerend by its outreach to Iran - turned to Moscow in search of closer diplomatic and military ties.
Although this was in Netanyahu’s mind for some time, Putin chose to announce his visit just as Kerry was to land in Jerusalem, attesting to Moscow’s eagerness to maintain the political and military momentum it has established in the Middle East.
Earlier Tuesday, Moscow announced that Geneva II, the conference for a political solution of the Syrian war, would not take place at the end of the month as scheduled.
Monday, debkafile’s military sources revealed exclusively that Russia, with Saudi encouragement, was negotiating for a permanent berth for its warship in one of Egypt’s Mediterranean ports.
With the wheels of the region spinning at such speed, Netanyahu felt obliged to find out for himself what Israel had to gain from closer ties with Moscow. Russia is becoming more and more influential in determining Middle East affairs against the growing passivity of the Obama administration - a situation Israel cannot afford to ignore. Neither is Netanyahu indifferent to Putin's expanding role in developing the back-channel between Washington and Tehran.
Netanyahu last met Putin in May when he made the trip to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to urge the Russian leader not to supply Syria with S-300 anti-aircraft batteries.
The coming visit will have a wider agenda, including Syria and the ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians sponsored by the United States. But the most central issue will no doubt be Iran and its nuclear program. That visit will no doubt overshadow Secretary Kerry’s talks in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority and his reproof on the sluggish pace of their peace talks.