17:20 GMT +322 October 2019
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    A picture taken on November 29, 2015 shows the Tel Aviv skyline from the neighbourhood of Jaffa

    Pivot to Russia: Israel Wants Closer Ties With 'New Sheriff' in Middle East

    © AFP 2019 / THOMAS COEX
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    Washington's strategy towards Iran, enmity between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Moscow's growing influence in the Middle East thanks to its anti-Daesh campaign in Syria have contributed to bringing Israel and Russia closer to each other.

    "You can hardly blame the Israeli government for looking north to the Russian Federation for a partnership with the new sheriff in town," Washington Times columnist L. Todd Wood asserted.

    This blooming relationship looks more like a strategic choice than a tactical shift due to a large extent to the evolving nature of Israel's relationship with the United States.

    The US still gives "Israel lots of military aid, but the special relationship is gone," he lamented. "Israel can no longer count on the United States for its ultimate security. America is no longer the protector of last resort."

    If the Obama administration still viewed Israel as its special ally, it would not have pushed for the nuclear deal with Iran, many in Israel believe. They are concerned that Tehran will covertly continue to develop nuclear weapons, although the Islamic Republic has always maintained that its nuclear program is purely peaceful in its nature.

    Netanyahu has been one of the key opponents of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Interestingly, Israel's relations with Russia have remained unaffected by the JCPOA even though Moscow played a major part in making the deal a reality.

    "Russia has a natural connection to Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews are living in Israel, which is also a popular destination for Russian tourists. It's a short flight, the security is good, the beaches and culture are fantastic. There are many dual citizens in Israel with Russian passports as well. Russians even serve in the Israeli Defense Forces," L. Todd Wood detailed.

    It goes beyond this.

    Israel has made every effort to improve its relations with Russia as soon as Moscow launched an airstrike campaign against terrorist groups in Syria, Iranian newspaper Khorasan reported. Tel Aviv views Russia's close ties with Damascus, Tehran and the Hezbollah movement as benefiting Israel.

    "Some analysts say that Russia's engagement in Syria helps in fact to maintain Israel's security. It has also allowed Tel Aviv to refrain from launching an unnecessary military campaign" in the Arab republic, the daily observed. "Experts also point out that Russia's presence in the region will enable Israel to make a broader 'pivot' towards Moscow."

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    Tags:
    Middle East, Iran nuclear deal, security, Syrian conflict, Russian aerial campaign, bilateral relations, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Benjamin Netanyahu, Syria, Israel, Russia
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