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Veteran Israeli analysts believe President Vladimir Putin is exploiting the downing of a Russian plane in order to change the rules of the game in Syria, and that the US has abandoned Israel on the issue of Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.
Last week, Israel presented evidence to the Russian army that the plane in question was in fact downed by Syrian forces, but Russia later rejected the claim and blamed the Jewish state for the loss.
According to analyst Amir Bohbot, Putin is now using the incident to shore up his damaged prestige as a result of recent Israeli actions against Iran in Syria.
"As senior officials think," he wrote at the Hebrew news website Walla, "Putin's tragic event has become a ripe fruit and he will leverage it to impose new rules of the game, such as ... much earlier warning systems, restrictions on traffic routes that will reduce the IDF's freedom of action on the sea and in the air," and to gain concessions from Israel and the US.
As a result, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "will be required to fight not for Israel's honor but for the freedom of action of the Israeli Air Force and the ability to stand up for its security interests. ... Any result other than maintaining the IDF's freedom of action will be considered a failure."
Iran, said Bohbot, has yet to take advantage of the current tensions between Russia and Israel, "but time is pressing and every day in the Middle East is critical." The Russians, for their part, are playing for time: "They are in no hurry and according to Kremlin experts, they will rip Israel well until they make a final decision on how to act."
Some Israeli sources are warning that Putin may continue to smile at Netanyahu, while at the same time directing his defense ministry to close Syrian air space against all foreign aircraft, not just Israeli warplanes. This would shut down Israel's air campaign for eradicating Iran's military grip on Syria - or bring it in conflict with Russian forces.
This would happen if the US and Israel decided for their part, to put Putin's directive to the test. Therefore, just as Russia's air force is no doubt planning its next steps in Syria, so too are the US and Israel.
Longtime Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari also chimed in, writing for Israel's Channel 2: "From the US perspective, we hear a lot of talk from President Trump and sources around him about their determination to curb Iranian activity and subversion in the region."
This, however, is just talk, and has not resulted in meaningful action, said Yaari. "In practical terms, the US has left Israel alone to deal with Iran's dangerous actions in Syria and to stand and deal alone with the presence of the Russian air force there," he said.