Netanyahu: Putin Can't Get Iran Out of Syria

Netanyahu tells top Knesset panel that Iranian weapons transfers to Hezbollah have decreased since downing of Russian spy-plane in September

Putin and Netanyahu at a concert marking 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations, 2016.
Mikhail Klimentyev / AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Russia alone does not have enough leverage to get Iran out of Syria. Speaking at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu said that Israel has acted in Syria since the downing of the Russian spy-plane in September.

"Our spy-planes continue to fly and collect information," he said. "From the information we have, the amount of Iranian weapons transfers to Hezbollah through Syria has significantly dropped since the downing of the Russian plane."

People present at the Knesset panel session said Netanyahu hinted that there is a need for another country to get involved in order to get Iran out of Syria.

According to Netanyahu, relations between Israel and Russia are "good."

"My conversation with Putin lasted half an hour and was excellent," he said, referring to the leaders' meeting on the sidelines of the Paris conference marking 100 years to the end of the First World War. "I offered him to increase coordination between [our] armies in Russia. Despite that, we are continuing to operate in Syria."

Haaretz's Amos Harel wrote on Friday, however, that even the "hasty meeting" between Netanyahu and Putin hasn’t resolved the crisis that began with the plane's downing.

According to Harel, Russia has made it clear to Israel in many ways that the status quo ante is gone. The air force’s energetic activity was disrupting their main project — restoring the Assad regime’s control over most of Syria and signing long-term contracts with Syrian President Bashar Assad that will protect Moscow’s security and economic interests in the country.

The change is evident in the more aggressive tone on the hot line connecting Israel Air Force headquarters to the Russian base in Khmeimim, in northwest Syria, whose purpose is to prevent aerial incidents between Israel and Russia. It’s also evident in the confrontational attitude of Russian planes and anti-aircraft batteries in Syria.