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Netanyahu: I hope Putin has hesitations about his vision for a Russian empire

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin “has had second thoughts” about his expansionist efforts and said he would consider supplying weapons to Ukraine if he returns to office after the November 1 elections in Israel.

The comments came from the former prime minister’s longstanding stance that Israel should remain more neutral on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, given Israel’s desire to preserve its freedom of action to strike Moscow-controlled Iranian targets in the sky in Syria. seemed to indicate that he was leaving.

In July, he overthrew the current government as it created a “dangerous crisis” with Russia, after years of working to develop “a measured, balanced and responsible relationship” with the Kremlin.

In an interview with USA Today on Friday, Netanyahu reiterated this point, saying, “Our air force is flying side by side over Syria’s skies. [As prime minister]I wanted to secure the freedom of action of the Israeli Air Force in order to fundamentally detonate the military positions Iran is trying to establish in Syria and to open a second terrorist front against us. Thank God we did it,” he said.

Netanyahu was then asked whether he believed Putin had acted rationally in expanding Russian military operations in Ukraine.

“I think he is guided by his vision of rebuilding a great Russian kingdom, and I hope he is hesitant about it,” he replied.

“But I don’t want to play a psychologist. “I want to be prime minister, get all the information, then decide if we’re going to do anything beyond what has been done in this conflict so far,” he said.

Netanyahu later pointed out that the current government has been criticized for its refusal to supply arms to Ukraine.

File: On August 25, 2022, a fire was seen after an alleged airstrike near Masyaf, Syria. (Social media)

“Recently I was asked this question and said I would investigate it when I took office,” said the head of the opposition, appearing more willing to support Ukraine in practice than ever before. We all have sympathy for Ukraine. It’s not even a question, and I’m no different.”

Netanyahu also announced that he was asked to mediate between Russia and Ukraine after the war started.

“Well, I guess I’ll leave it up to the incumbent prime minister to decide that,” I said.

The then prime minister, Naftali Bennett, would mediate between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, travel to Moscow and have a handful of phone calls with both leaders.

However, his efforts never yielded results, and he put the matter aside after a few months when his government began to disintegrate.

Netanyahu, who has boasted in the past of his close ties to Putin, said on Friday that the mediation proposal would “probably come up again” if he comes back to power.

The Likud president appears to have a very realistic chance of returning to office in the November 1 elections.

The position Netanyahu presented on Friday seemed like a softened version of the comments made two days ago when asked about the possibility of arming Ukraine.

File: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (SME Gideon/GPO)

In an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that “weapons we supply on a battlefield result in weapons that Iran is using against us.”

The former prime minister referred to an incident on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, where we “tryed to prevent Iran from opening a second Lebanese front against us, a second terrorist front against us,” where the IDF “had encountered Israeli-made weapons.” ”

Netanyahu may have been referring to a 2016 incident in which drone technology originally sold to Russia was later sold to the Iranian military, which deployed the Russian-made drone against Israel.

Ironically, the Israeli Air Force reportedly did not shoot down the drone with two Patriot missiles, instead calling for the Russian Air Force to land the aircraft.

In the TV interview, Netanyahu offered rare support for the current government, emphasizing his “pragmatic” stance towards Ukraine.

Earlier that day, The New York Times reported that Russia was withdrawing its forces from Syria and removing the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft system that poses a major threat to Israeli Air Force operations in the country.

Russian S-300 air defense missile systems are used during the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2016, 71 years after the victory in World War II. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Since Russia’s presence in Syria is an important consideration for Israel’s stance on this issue, this development may open the door for Jerusalem to increase its support for Kiev.

A senior Israeli defense official and two senior Western diplomats told The Times that the redeployment would reduce Russia’s influence over Israel, and this could cause Jerusalem to reconsider its support for Ukraine.

Israel’s stance is believed to be based on a desire to maintain freedom of operation in Syria, as well as Russia’s desire to avoid causing trouble for the large Jewish community. Israel also worries that Iran could increase its influence as Russia withdraws its military presence in Syria.

Moscow has already taken action to block Jewish institutions in the country: over the summer, the Russian Ministry of Justice filed a petition to liquidate the Russian offices of the Israel Jewish Agency, a semi-government agency that promotes and facilitates Jewish immigration, according to analysts. In response to Israel’s criticism of the occupation.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz stressed that Israel will continue to support Ukraine on the invasion, but will not “deliver weapons systems to Ukraine due to various operational concerns”.

But he said Jerusalem could provide the besieged country with an early warning system, similar to the one used in Israel, to warn of incoming attacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 10, 2022, in this image taken from video provided by the Press Office of the President of Ukraine. (Presidential Press Office of Ukraine via AP)

On Thursday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba angrily in Kiev at Israel’s refusal to supply arms to Ukraine, which is fighting against Russia’s occupation.

After the phone call, Lapid tweeted that Kuleba had informed him about the war, while the prime minister said he “shared with her. [Kuleba] Expressing our deep concern about the military ties between Iran and Russia, he said, “Israel stands with the Ukrainian people.”

However, Lapid made no mention of Ukraine’s official request for Israel to supply Ukraine with air defense systems.

On Monday, Dmitri Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, warned in a social media post that any “reckless” supply of military equipment to Ukraine “will destroy all interstate relations between our countries”.

Israel has in the past provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including operating a field hospital for several weeks in the early days of the conflict, as well as protective military equipment such as helmets and anti-aircraft guns. But more recently, it has also provided the Ukrainians with intelligence on Iranian drones, according to Ukrainian and Israeli officials, who say Israel has offered to examine the remains of crashed drones.