Mossad Chief to Join Netanyahu for Putin Meeting on Syria

Netanyahu to meet Putin in Sochi Wednesday to relay Israel's concerns over the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria and Iran, Hezbollah's potential foothold

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen in a committee meeting on June 8, 2017.
Emil Salman

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen will join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his upcoming Russia visit Wednesday. Netanyahu will meet President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi to discuss Israel's concerns over the cease-fire in southern Syria, brokered by Russia and the U.S. Netanyahu also intends to raise Israeli concerns the agreement will allow for a greater Iranian foothold in the country. New National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat will also partake in the Russia visit.

Last week, Cohen led the delegation of Israeli defense officials that visited Washington to discuss the situation in Syria. Cohen was joined by the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, the head of the Defense Ministry's political-security department Zohar Palti and Deputy National Security Advisor Eitan Ben David.

Israel believes its security interests were not taken into account in the cease-fire draft being formulated by the U.S. and Russia. A senior Israeli official said that during the talks in Washington, delegation members relayed Israel's concerns over the agreement and asked to amend parts of it to include a clear demand for the removal of Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Shi'ite militias from Syria. Netanyahu and Cohen are expected to relay a similar message in their coming talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2017.
Kobi Gidon

During a government security briefing last week, Cohen said Iranian forces are gaining a foothold in Syria. "In places where ISIS activity is diminished, Iran is working to fill the void," he told government minister. Later that day, at a conference in Ashdod, Netanyahu said Israel vehemently opposed Iran and Hezbollah entrenching its military presence in Syria. "We will do everything it takes to safeguard Israel's security," he said.