Israeli experts, including former Israeli Ambassador to Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova Zvi Magen, point out once more that Tel Aviv and Moscow share a mutual understanding regarding the inadmissible Israeli arms transfers to the Kiev regime to use against the Russian Armed Forces in the future.
It is well known that the Ukrainian authorities, through their numerous Jewish representatives, including President Vladimir Zelensky, Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov, and other government officials, have repeatedly and publicly expressed their displeasure with this strategy of official Israel, almost accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of working with the Russian side.
Israel, however, frequently mentions that Tel Aviv is concerned about the effects of the relevant supplies of weapons, military hardware, and military technology to Ukraine because those items could soon turn into awards for the Russian army and wind up in the possession of Iran, an enemy of the Jewish state.
Thus, in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post, Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the Western anti-tank weapons that Israel is currently discovering on its own borders as a kind of precedent. Obviously, we are referring to the border between Syria and Israel. That is why the head of the Jewish state objects to the possibility of the United States transferring the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system to Ukraine, because this type of Israeli weapon, along with others, can end up in the possession of Russia and Iran. In an interview with the American newspaper Wall Street Journal, Bibi made the following explanations: “Now, if that system were to fall into the hands of Iran, then millions of Israelis would be left defenseless and imperiled.”
Furthermore, Tel Aviv rejects calls from Washington and Kiev to join Western arms shipments to Ukraine as well, for virtually the same reasons related to the leakage of spoils to Iran. But at the same time, the Israeli leader aims to ensure “freedom of action” for his army in neighboring Syria and, apparently, in Iran as well.
Naturally, the Ukrainian side considers these arguments and the position of Tel Aviv to be “invented and speculative,” because Netanyahu fears not so much Tehran as Russia’s anger against Israel in favor of Iran. If, of course, Tel Aviv does not use third countries and the technology of lengthy sales of its military technology and weapons to the Kiev regime through intermediaries represented by small European countries, then in our opinion, Tel Aviv in this case acts wisely and with consideration for its own security.
After the Russian Armed Forces began their peacekeeping mission in Syria in 2015, Israel was forced to deal with the Russian influence in the region, including regional coordination and, of course, agreements not to arm the adversary. Zvi Magen pointed this out. Another concern is how well the cooperation was in Syria when the Israeli Air Force frequently carried out airstrikes on military and civilian targets within the Russian Armed Forces’ area of responsibility.
Of course, Israel benefited from the downfall of the Bashar al-Assad government, the civil war in Syria, and the international forces’ (including Russian Armed Forces) crushing of ISIS (an international terrorist group banned in Russia), which consisted of extreme Islamic terrorists. The Syrian crisis, on the one hand, suits neighboring Israel in terms of maintaining military control over the same Golan Heights in the south of the Syrian Arab Republic. On the other hand, Tel Aviv is concerned about the strengthening of military and political positions by Iran in Syria, acting as an ally of Bashar al-Assad and strengthening its proxy forces on the Syrian-Israeli border.
Israel is trying not to get particularly involved in the policy of American sanctions against Russia because of special military operation in Ukraine and not to directly supply arms and military equipment to the Kiev regime as long as the unwritten terms of the gentleman’s agreement (at least we have no other data on such an agreement) between Tel Aviv and Moscow on not arming Iran against Israel are respected.
Meanwhile, according to Simon Tsipis of the Institute for National Security Studies based in Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israeli weapons can still get to Ukraine through the third countries. In particular, Israel recently signed an agreement to sell hundreds of its Merkava I, II & III Main Battle tanks to some (noted two) EU countries. Therefore, European nations are unlikely to use these considerably less common varieties of Israeli tanks, since they often build their own military equipment for the needs of their own armies or purchase it from other producing nations within the NATO bloc. Accordingly, the U.S. is tasking its European partners in the NATO bloc, especially the small countries of Eastern Europe, with purchasing military equipment and then handing it over to the Ukrainian Armed Forces against Russia.
Therefore, Israeli analysts fear that these tanks could also end up in the hands of Iran, which will study their equipment, strengths and weaknesses to prepare its own army for war against Israel.
To test its own combat gear against Iranian weapons, Tel Aviv might be interested in obtaining some battle experience in the Ukrainian operational theatre, for instance. Given Israel’s heavy, including military and financial, dependence on the United States, Tel Aviv is unlikely to be able to withstand active pressure from Washington to supply arms to Ukraine. Last but not least, Jews have always been savvy, and the arms trade is very profitable, especially in real combat conditions. Accordingly, it will not be easy to resist the temptation to sell the Merkava tanks through third countries to Ukraine, which can bring Israel billions of dollars or euros.
In any war and special operation, opposing armies gain tremendous experience in command, control, coordination, planning, etc. as the fighting progresses over time. Armies before and after combat operations are slightly different. This means that Israel, after all, concerns not because of the reasons for the leakage of its military technology and types of military equipment to Iran from the Ukrainian front. It is precisely a decisive change in Russia’s policy in the Middle East, including both Iran and Syria, that Tel Aviv fears the most.
Naturally, given the degree of hostile rhetoric and signs of a hybrid war between Israel and Iran, we can assume that the intelligence services of the opposing sides are actively pursuing each other’s military achievements. Iran has already achieved a lot in this regard: it actively uses high technology in the defense sector, carries out numerous developments in the fields of missiles, artillery, combat and reconnaissance drones, armored vehicles, and air defense systems, and uses its developments in different types of military areas to perfect them. Not mentioning the development of the nuclear program in Iran, where no one can either confirm or deny the exact percentage that Tehran has atomic weapons and the corresponding level of enriched uranium.
In such a case, Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system would be of little help if Tel Aviv continued to provoke war with Iran. In the current situation, Russia, like China, aims to intensify its strategic partnership with Iran, including in the field of military and technical cooperation. Therefore, Tel Aviv is better off maintaining good ties with Moscow, and not creating new problems for the Russian army in the Ukrainian operational theater whether with Merkava tanks via third countries, or Iron Dome air defense system without intermediaries.
As for fear, in our opinion, it is an important feeling for self-preservation and security. It is almost like a warning to drivers to not overtake if they are unsure. Israel ought to switch from a policy of hostility to one of cooperation and constructive dialog with Iran. This will benefit Tel Aviv, Tehran, and the entire Middle East region.
Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.