Sputnik: What is your assessment of Israel's position on Syria right now regarding the ongoing escalation of tensions close to Israeli borders?
Gabriel Ben-Dor: The Israeli position has to do with two things. One — the ongoing political negotiations involving Russia, Turkey and Iran about the future of Syria and Israel would like to be part of these negotiations or at least to be considered as a legitimate partner whose interests are taken into account. Second — is the ongoing establishment of Iranian bases inside Syria with aggressive Iranian intentions against Israel. I would like to add that all this is being done while not challenging in any way the dominance of Russia in the Syrian arena, at the moment the dominant party. There are ongoing military negotiations to try and avoid any possible clash between Russian and Israeli forces. Putin and Netanyahu discussed the situation over the phone as they are likely to do every so often every few weeks. So there seems to be a good ongoing relationship with Russia despite the ongoing tension.
Sputnik: Do you feel that Russian and Israeli relations are as good as they have been?
Sputnik: Has Israeli media reported on the results of those negotiations at all?
Gabriel Ben-Dor: No, they do not normally report, there are very intimate, very personal connections here and no official pronouncement of any kind. Some of the talks merely have to do with keeping in touch, some of them informing the other party of something coming, some of them have to do with saying: "Hey, we have a problem, help us," and so on and so forth, so I think they'd like to keep it very discreet and very intimate and I think rightly so under the pressure of circumstances all around the region.
Sputnik: Is Israel facing pressure from the US regarding their stance on the entire situation in Syria?
Gabriel Ben-Dor: Not really. If anything the contrary appears — Israel is pressuring the United States not to get out of Syria — as you know the Trump administration has publicly announced that it is unfolding the ground presence of all American troops in Syria and we would like to have some American troops there to counterbalance Iran and the Americans have been present in several areas dominated by the Kurds, who have been good allies in the fight against ISIS and we would like the US to maintain some kind of presence in Syria. As far as I know there is no American pressure on Israel at all. There is some kind of tension between Israel and Russia at the moment when there is an official Russian request as far as we know informing Israel not to undertake anything which might upset the delicate situation in Syria. And that's a problem for us because if the Iranians keep building more installations, which are aimed at striking at Israel, Israel will have to strike back according to our doctrine and then we might be another problem. But basically I think that the problems are manageable at the moment and I don't think they'll get out of hand.
Sputnik: Would you say that Israel is interested in maintaining a long-term US presence on the ground in Syria?
Gabriel Ben-Dor: Absolutely we would love that. We're not sure it's attainable, but the later the Americans quit the ground in Syria the better in terms of maintaining some kind of balance and not leaving the arena to the radical forces of Iran and such.
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