Bennett to ask Putin to keep Iran away from Golan Heights

Moscow reportedly unhappy about assassination of Syrian operative but status quo not to interfere with each others’ operations in Syria will continue.

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to ask Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to lean on Iran regarding its forces stationed in Syria near Israel’s northern border, when the pair meet later this week.

Bennett is slated to travel to Moscow on Friday for his first meeting with the Russian premier since taking office earlier this year.

According to Israel Hayom, Iran will be the subject of main concern when the leaders meet, with Bennett planning to enlist Russia’s help to rein Iran’s efforts to develop terrorist infrastructure along the Israeli-Syrian border.

Over the weekend reports emerged that Israel had killed Madhat al-Saleh on Saturday. Al-Saleh was a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad and former director of the Golan Affairs Office. He was believed to have been instrumental in helping Hezbollah entrench its positions in the region, with a view to carrying out attacks against the Golan Heights.

Moscow is said to be unhappy about the attack, but diplomatic officials have indicated that an Israeli-Russian status quo not to interfere with each others’ operations in Syria will continue.

Israel’s interests in Syria do not wholly align with Russia’s, as both compete over influence and resources in the region. Russia backs Assad, while Israel is more closely aligned with Western interests who have sought to topple him.

However, Moscow also doesn’t see eye to eye with Tehran on Syria, opposing the Islamic State using the country as a potential launch pad for a future offensive against Israel, giving Israeli strategists reason to believe that Russia may prove an ally on this matter.

Bennett and Putin are also expected to discuss Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the attempt by Western states, notably the U.S., Germany and Britain among others, to persuade Tehran to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal.

It is understood that Bennett will be accompanied on his trip by Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a Soviet immigrant who previously accompanied former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act as translator during meetings with Putin. Elkin also brings an in-depth understanding of the relationship between Israel and Russia to the table.