The Israeli public still isn't aware of the extent to which Israeli security interests have been compromised by the September 17 destruction of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian air defences attempting to thwart an Israeli airstrike, Haaretz defence contributor Amos Harel wrote.
According to the analyst, while Israel isn't facing the immediate danger of war, "there is also a gap between the public's awareness and the actual severity of the situation" in the region.
"Israel is still deeply mired in a complicated strategic situation: The downing of the Ilyushin plane by a Syrian defence system on September 17 infuriated the Russians, changed their conduct and reduced the IAF's freedom of activity in the skies of Syria," Harel suggested.
"If previous attacks against Iranian arms convoys and bases in Syria were approved almost routinely, now any such activity – and even the Israeli leadership has already hinted that several such attacks have nevertheless been carried out – is accompanied by a great degree of uncertainty. Russia is turning a cold shoulder to Israel," the analyst lamented, pointing to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu's apparent refusal to meet with now ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, and IAF chief Amikam Norkin's "difficult experience" in Moscow in September.
Harel's analysis was the second time in a week the defence analyst has mentioned Russia's role in hampering the freedom of Israeli military operations in Syria. Last week, the analyst wrote that Russia had "made it clear to Israel in many ways that the status quo ante is gone" through the diplomatic and military steps taken by Moscow in Syria since the Il-20's destruction.
In addition to the S-300s, the Russian military has provided Syria with its target ID system, and assistance in the radio-electronic suppression of the satnav, airborne radar, and comms systems of aircraft attempting to hit Syrian troops or government targets. Russian air defence troops are currently on the ground in areas of Syria, where the S-300s are deployed for the training of their Syrian counterparts. The training mission is expected to wrap up in December.
Israel has attacked targets in Syrian territory approximately 200 times over the last two years, but has not been confirmed to have done so since the Il-20 incident. Tel Aviv justified its attacks by alleging that Iran has been trying to turn the Arab Republic into a forward base for Iranian operations against Israel. Iran has denied the presence of combat forces in Syria, but does have an advisory capacity in the country to assist the Syrian Army in its fight against terrorism, and maintains political and military contacts with Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has also played an active combat role in Syria against Daesh* and other extremists.
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.