In his last speech as Prime Minister of Israel last Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu evoked his proximity with President Vladimir Putin the following way:
“We developed special relations with Russia, not just with Russia as a state, we also nurtured a direct close line with the president of Russia. And in so doing, we guaranteed the freedom of maneuver of the Israeli Air Force in the skies of Syria in order to prevent Iran entrenchment on our Northern border.”
A news outlet stressed the fact that the former Prime Minister of Israel “[…] boasted of his friendship with Putin and was a frequent guest in Russia.”
I have always found the closeness between Putin and Netanyahu to be extremely interesting, not to say simply fascinating. Notably in the context of the increasing presence of Russia in the Middle East.
I therefore reached out to one of the best specialists on Russia, internationally acclaimed author and Professor Mark Galeotti, to ask him what he thought of the relationship between the two statesmen. He observed that:
“Russia and Israel have become quite close strategic partners (watch as Russian air defense radars are switched off when the IAF hammers Hizbullah targets in Syria), and given that Putin and Netanyahu have both been in power for so long, it’s quite hard to separate them from their countries. Putin was certainly quite pro-Netanyahu.”
Questioned further about the possibility of the Russian President’s potential desire to establish the same type of closeness with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Mr. Galeotti opined that “it depends if the new government looks as if it would last.”
One thing is certain. Apart from the growing presence and influence of China on the global exchequer, the relationship between Moscow and Jerusalem will most certainly keep on being among the most consequential to observe in the coming months and years.
Granted he does not topple the new government, I would certainly not be surprised to see Benjamin Netanyahu be invited to occupy a lucrative position in Moscow’s trajectory. He would certainly not be the first. Remember former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder? He has been chairman of the Russian energy company Rosneft since 2017. In his excellent biography about the Russian president (We Need to Talk About Putin), Mark Galeotti reminds us that loyalty is one of the cardinal values of Vladimir Putin. And he likes to take care of his friends, as much as he does of his enemies.
Stay tuned, folks. We haven’t heard the last from “Bibi”.
Mark Galeotti’s last book A Short History of Russia is a short but engaging and well-written tour d’horizon of this country’s political evolution.