07:55 GMT20 April 2021
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    Israel relies on Washington for military and diplomatic assistance and is also bound to the US by a number of contracts and treaties, and this is why Tel Aviv won't ditch DC for a more reliable partner, like Russia, believes a former ambassador.

    Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is currently in Moscow, where he is expected to meet his counterpart Sergei Lavrov later on Wednesday.

    The two are set to discuss trade, "attempts to rewrite the history" of World War II, and a number of regional issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel's tensions in the north with the Lebanon-based Shiite militia Hezbollah.

    Russia is at the Centre

    However, former Israeli Ambassador to Russia Aliza Shenhar claims the meeting of the two ministers is a rather "meaningless ceremony", and although she agrees they are likely to discuss Hezbollah and Iran, which Israel deems as a threat to its security, she also thinks it will focus on the promotion of Moscow's interests in the region.

    The primary interest, believes the former diplomat, is the "cementing" of Russian leadership in the region.

    Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has managed to regain its popularity in the Middle East, lost following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    In Syria, Moscow has managed to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power despite the West's attempts to oust the elected leader by supporting opposition and rebel groups. In Iran, Moscow played a pivotal role in contributing to the country's stability through the diplomatic support it has given Tehran and its nuclear programme under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while in Israel, it managed to cool tensions between the IDF and one of its rivals: Lebanon's Hezbollah.

    In recent months, Ashkenazi has been lobbying world leaders to designate Hezbollah's political and military branches as a terrorist organisation.

    Last year, he succeeded in achieving that goal in the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Argentina but he is unlikely to produce similar results in Russia, where the group is viewed as a legitimate organisation.

    Shenhar says that this is part and parcel of Russia's foreign policy, with the latter aimed at "maintaining stable relations with all the players for the sake of promoting Moscow's military and economic interests". 

    Washington Is Still Indispensable

    The expert believes that Russia's positions have become stronger in recent years and that they might see an even bigger boost now that Joe Biden has assumed the presidency in Washington.

    "Geopolitically speaking, the US failed to understand the region. They lost interest in it [preferring to focus on domestic problems and other foreign issues - ed.]. Russia, on the contrary, used that opportunity to promote itself as a stable and loyal partner [as opposed to the US, with its constantly shifting alliances - ed.]".

    In some areas of the Middle East, this strategy is already paying dividends. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the nation's leadership is eyeing Moscow as a potential ally and a reliable arms supplier due to recent comments made by the Biden administration suggesting Washington would want to "recalibrate" its relations with the country.

    Similar feelings are also harboured in the United Arab Emirates and in Egypt that got burnt by the US in 2012, following its reluctance to provide Cairo with Apache helicopters in its fight against Sinai terrorists, a move that prompted Egypt to look for partners in Moscow.

    Yet, for Israel which relies on Washington for military and diplomatic assistance and is bound to it by a number of contracts and treaties, such a move is simply impossible, believes the diplomat.

    "I don't see a scenario, where Israel would shake off its reliance on the US. Anyone, who would dare to do so, would be mistaken. We will not and should not turn our backs to the US", she believes.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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