Israel-Russia: 'Military reconciliation' at a special point in time
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                  Israel-Russia: 'Military reconciliation' at a special point in time

                  Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) attend the military parade dedicated to the 73rd anniversary of the Victory in the Second World War in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. /VCG Photo

                  Israel-Russia: 'Military reconciliation' at a special point in time


                  On April 4, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Russia on a short working visit and held talks with Russia President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

                  Israel and Russia have kept relatively close interactions in recent months. After Netanyahu visited Moscow in February, the two leaders had another in-person discussion.

                  But with the return of the remains of Israeli Sergeant Zachary Baumel, the diplomatic arrangement seems comparatively special on account of the sudden announcement and the political circumstances in Israel.

                  Subtle might be the best word to describe Israeli-Russian relations. Besides being a traditional member of the Western community, Israel developed a relatively friendly relationship with Russia since the end of the Cold War. The reason behind the bilateral diplomacy lies in the historical and humanitarian connection, and the practical interests at present.

                  In the past five years, the Ukrainian crisis and Russian military actions in Syria seriously damaged the fragile trust between Moscow and the West, whereas the communication channels with Israel are stable and open. With relations between Russia and the West at a tense point, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Moscow and attended the Victory Parade in May 2018. This visit was symbolic in the context of Western sanctions.

                  Relations between Israel and Russia are both close and complicated. Looking back on the diplomatic interactions and cooperation plans in the past few months, we see a tight connection between Israel and Russia. However, at the same time, the military actions in Syria had a negative effect on bilateral relations. Earlier this year, Netanyahu's two consecutive visits to Moscow proves the importance of Russia in Israel's foreign policy.

                  With Russia handing over the remains of Israeli Sergeant Zachary Baumel in a ceremony organized by the Russian ministry of defense, the special arrangements and symbolic implication has been interpreted as a signal of military communications recovery. With Israel's upcoming legislative election, both internal and external political factors demand more coordination with Russia.

                  The timing of Netanyahu's visit to Moscow is special. It was just five days before the upcoming Israeli legislative election. When asked by journalists why the information about the handing over of Zachary Baumel was released just before the election, Netanyahu responded that the information could be released only after confirmation by both two sides.

                  As a matter of fact, the Israeli side asked Russia for assistance in looking for remains of Israeli soldiers almost two years ago. Based on the context, the press and public are wondering why the two chose to hold the ceremony with election just around the corner. Moreover, restoring the military connection with Russia undoubtedly has had a positive impact on people's opinion in the coming elections, and could be seen as Netanyahu's capabilities in handling relations with crucial partners like Russia.

                  Israel has also attached great importance to Russia's role in the Syrian crisis Syrian issues have always been a major issue of concern between the two countries.

                  As a regional stakeholder, Israel is quite cautious and sensitive toward the Iranian military actions on Syrian territory, and restraining Iran and other opposition forces has become the main strategic goal in Syria. Since Moscow stepped into the battlefield in Syria, Israel has regarded Russia as a counterbalance in the Syrian crisis, and certainly, expected the Iranian influence to be limited. The complexity of relations between parties has always been a core element influencing coordination between different countries, and the development of the situation in Syria.

                  In addition, Israel highly values the United States. In late March, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Washington and won a political achievement, that is the U.S. acknowledged the sovereignty of Israel in the Golan Heights. Netanyahu was satisfied with the outcome of his U.S. trip.

                  However, Russia, as another partner on the Syrian battlefield was strongly against such a decision. After the United States announced its decision to withdraw troops in Syria, the Israeli side has leaned more on Russia to help deal with the complicated issue. From this perspective, visiting Russia for promoting bilateral relations is directly related to the upcoming election, as well as the unsolved dilemma in Syria.

                  By Shi Jing.