Hedging its bets in the aftermath of the Iranian nuclear deal and the shadow of the turmoil in Syria, Israel has formed an unlikely alliance with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, a veteran Israeli journalist told an audience in Highland Park.
At the same time, Israel continues to maintain strong strategic and military ties with the United States, said David Ze’ev Jablinowitz.
A New York native, Jablinowitz made aliya after graduating Queens College. His central New Jersey appearance allowed him to visit his son Yair, a fifth-grade educator at Nefesh Yehudi Academy in East Brunswick, and daughter-in-law Shifra, who is youth director at the Young Israel of East Brunswick.
In his talk, Jablinowitz asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman have been developing a relationship with Putin for some time. Netanyahu and Putin share a military background and an understanding of a strong defense, Jablinowitz said, noting that after the Iran nuclear deal was signed, Netanyahu rebuffed reconciliation efforts by President Obama and instead chose to meet with Putin, on Sept. 21.
That decision alarmed even some of the deal’s critics in Israel who thought such disrespect of the president might endanger future U.S.-Israel relations.
But it also spoke to the complicated “vinegar and oil” relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, perhaps owing to the president’s lacking “the special feeling” American presidents have tended to have toward Israel, Jablinowitz said.
“President Obama doesn’t think that way at all,” he said. “His agenda has been to embolden Muslims who are not terrorists so that they should feel welcome and comfortable in the U.S.”
Yet, “President Obama is not lying” when he points out that the strategic and military alliance with Israel has grown under his administration.
However, Jablinowitz said, with Russia bombarding ISIS targets in Syria following the terrorist downing of a commercial Russian airliner over the Sinai early last month, Israel has two concerns — that with all the different factions fighting each other, violence will spill over the Israeli-Syrian border and that Israeli and Russian fighter jets might engage each other.
“The Israelis see the problem with ISIS as an international affair,” said Jablinowitz, adding that although Israel knows the Assad regime in Syria is a brutal dictatorship and is an enemy of Israel, it has also kept the border quiet, in stark contrast to Gaza or Lebanon; Assad is now also fighting terrorists.
“For Israel, maybe whoever will follow him may be even worse,” said Jablinowitz.
While Israel’s newfound relationship with Russia is “specific” in nature, Netanyahu did not close the door to Israel’s longstanding relationship with the United States.