Dr. Eran Lerman, former Deputy NSC head: Meeting is Russian ‘slap’ at Iran.
The Jerusalem Post, 20.06.2019
The Kremlin on Wednesday added its voice to that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in building up the importance of the upcoming meeting in Jerusalem of national security advisers from the US, Russia and Israel.
“This is a very important contact,” Tass quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. “The sides will have a vital exchange of views on the situation in the region, namely the Middle East settlement, the settlement process in Syria and other issues, which they consider necessary to discuss.”
A day earlier, Netanyahu said the meeting that will begin next Monday between Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat, is “very important for the stability of the Middle East during these turbulent times.”
Tass also quoted Patrushev’s spokesman, Yevgeny Anoshin, as saying that “We hope our joint work will yield common practical steps aimed at stabilizing the situation in Syria and the entire Middle East.”
Netanyahu announced the meeting last month just minutes after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself, calling the meeting “unprecedented and historic.”
Eran Lerman, a former deputy head of the National Security Council and now the vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS), agreed with Netanyahu’s characterization. Holding this meeting in Israel is “amazing [and] unbelievable, nothing of the kind has ever happened in our diplomatic history,” he said.
Lerman said that meetings such as these generally happen in places like Geneva, and that it situates Israel “as a significant player in an international event of this type.”
“The Russian National Security Council takes us very seriously, and the opportunity to act as a matchmaker in a very important strategic conversation about something as important to Russia as Syria is a remarkable achievement,” he said.
The signal to everyone in the region from holding this meeting in Israel, he added, is that “this is a slap in the face of the Iranians. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia in saving [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s neck from the gallows, but at the end of the day – down the road – their roads diverged, and there couldn’t be a more potent symbol than this summit of national security advisers. This is a slap at the Iranians, and an indication that they can no longer assume that Russia is friendly to their long term designs in Syria.”
Nevertheless, Patrushev met at a security conference in Ufa, Russia, on Wednesday with the secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, to discuss what the Russian press said were security issues and cooperation on the “anti-terrorism track.”
Former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon also said the meeting had a great deal of significance. “This is a message that Israel is now a global player that really can use its accessibility and trust and very good term with both superpowers.”
Although he said he did not expect any major decision to be made at the tripartite meeting, “exchanging views is very important, and now Israel’s view will be heard very carefully in Moscow, not just in Washington.”
Since Syria, Iran and the Palestinians are going to be discussed, Ayalon said, this marks Israel as a major player and indicated that “whatever settlement will be in Syria, they will have to take into account Israel’s interests. That is a big achievement.”
BY HERB KEINON, The Jerusalem Post, 20.06.2019