Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of his “red lines” regarding the security of Israel’s northern borders, and stressed that the Jewish state was determined to maintain its control of the Golan Heights.
“I have come to Russia to step up coordination on security matters, to prevent mistakes, misunderstandings,” Netanyahu said during the two leaders’ meeting in Moscow. “We are not going back to the days when rockets were fired at our communities and our children from the top of the Golan… and so, with an agreement or without, the Golan Heights will remain part of [Israel’s] sovereign territory.”
The prime minister also stressed that Israel would do “everything” in its power to block Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons, and was working to assure that no new “terror front” appeared on the Golan Heights.
The issues of the Syrian civil war and the ownership of the Golan had been expected to top the agenda at the meeting. Russia has been carrying out air raids in Syria in support of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad since September. And although Moscow recently announced it would withdraw many of its troops from the war-torn country, Russian planes still regularly fly sorties there.
Netanyahu was also expected to address Russian-backed peace efforts in Syria, which have reportedly become entangled with the status of the Golan Heights, an area effectively annexed by Israel in 1981 in a move not recognized by the rest of the world.
The prime minister has previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks needed to take Israel’s position into account.
The prime minister was accompanied by Ukrainian-born Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin; Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; National Security Council head Avriel Bar-Yosef; and Netanyahu’s military secretary Col. Eliezer Toledano.
The entourage will return to Israel later in the evening to be home in time for the Passover festival, which starts on Friday night.
The prime minister has drawn fire internationally in the past few days, after holding a cabinet meeting on the Golan, in which he declared the plateau would remain in Israel’s hands forever. Netanyahu has also previously gone on the record saying that Syrian peace talks, brokered between Moscow and Washington, needed to take Israel’s position into account.
According to Israel’s Channel 2, the first clause of a draft agreement aimed at settling the brutal civil war in Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, specifies that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and must be returned to Syria.
During the meeting, Netanyahu was also likely to lobby for Russia to cancel the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran, which has already begun to be implemented. Netanyahu has asked Putin to nix the sale on several previous occasions, to no avail.