Russia-Syria arms deal alarms Israel

The Israeli press has disclosed that the recently reported crisis between Russia and Israel was triggered by Russian plans to sell Syria medium-range missiles that could hit targets all over Israel.

    There is reported to be a 'silent crisis' in Israel-Russia relations

    The Haaretz newspaper reported that the missiles would have a range of up to 280km and were capable of hitting the nuclear reactor at Dimona in southern Israel.

    Quoting Russian media, Haaretz said Israel had been exerting pressure on Russia in an attempt to cancel the reported deal, but to no avail.

    Some sources spoke of Israeli and Jewish circles trying to mobilise Russian opposition figures against President Vladimir Putin to scrap the deal.

    Diplomatic spat

    Moscow reportedly rejected the Israeli pressure, telling Israeli officials not to intervene in Russia's internal affairs.

    The strategic balance of power is
    currently not in Syria's favour

    The press attache at the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv refused to comment on the latest reports, saying he was not authorised to answer questions in this regard.

    Israeli sources have indicated that Israel was likely to ask Washington, including the powerful Jewish American lobby, to exert pressure on Russia in an effort to scrap the deal.

    The strategic balance between Israel and Syria, whose Golan Heights have been under Israel's military occupation since 1967, swung in Israel's favour after the collapse of the former Soviet Union nearly 15 years ago.

    'Dangerous resumption'

    Gerald Steinberg, a strategic expert at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at the Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv,  termed the rumoured deal "a dangerous resumption of the military relations between Russia and Syria".

    Deal is "a dangerous resumption of the military relations between Russia and Syria"

    Gerald Steinberg,
    strategic expert,
    Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv

    He told that Israel would view the deal as "disturbing the military balance" between the two countries.

    "If what is being reported is true, then, yes, Israel has a reason to be concerned."

    Two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened an emergency cabinet session to discuss what was then termed as "a crisis in Russian-Israeli relations".

    Spy allegations

    There was intense speculation that the reported crisis had to do with espionage-related issues.

    The Israeli press on Tuesday reported that Russia was upset with alleged Israeli intervention in the Ukraine through covertly supporting the pro-Western candidate who eventually won the elections.

    However, these speculations have been denied by both Russian and Israeli officials.

    SOURCE: Reuters



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