Netanyahu, Putin to Meet Next Week in Moscow

Meeting comes as Syria's Assad is advancing near the Israeli border

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018
\ POOL/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week, the Prime Minister's Office said. The meeting is scheduled to take place in Moscow on Wednesday, July 11.

The meeting takes place amid a Russian-backed advance of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad close to the borders with Israel and Jordan.

Contacts between Israel and Russia have intensified in recent months as Israel sees Putin as a key partner in its bid to curtail Iranian presence and influence in the Syria region that borders with the occupied Golan heights.

>> In bid to avoid conflict, Israel unlikely to help Syrian rebels near its border | Analysis ■ >> Trump's perverse appeasement of Putin will rebound on Israel | Opinion

Netanyahu addressed the situation in Syria during Sunday's cabinet meeting, saying: "We will continue defending our borders, we will provide humanitarian aid as best as we can, we will not allow entry to our territories and demand strict adherence to the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement with the Syrian army."

Netanyahu added he is in constant contact with the White House and the Kremlin on the matter, as are Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot with their counterparts in the U.S. and Russia.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Washington Post described the outlines of understandings now emerging in Syria, which are quite similar to those described in Haaretz in recent weeks. According to columnist David Ignatius, the civil war is approaching its “diplomatic endgame” and an American-Russian-Israeli deal is shaping up, whereby the Assad regime will take back control of the Syrian side of the border with Israel in the Golan, following his assault on the Daraa area, near the border with Jordan.

Israel, Ignatius writes, will agree to this in exchange for a Russian pledge to keep Iran and the Shi’ite militias at least 80 kilometers from the border (Israeli sources had previously spoken of a line 60 or 70 kilometers from the border, while Netanyahu has publicly demanded that Iran be removed entirely from Syria). Russia, for its part, will continue to turn a blind eye to Israeli attacks on Iranian military targets deep inside Syria.