Saturday, July 31, 2021

The New Lapid-Bennett Government Downgrades Israel's Operations In Middle-East - Russia Has Upper Hand

How Putin understands the Lapid-Bennett government

On Thursday it was reported that the IDF is planning to change its tactics in Syria and will base its operations against Iranian targets in the area on long-range standoff munitions rather than on airstrikes. Obviously, the move will downgrade Israel's operational prowess.

The report of Israel's new policy of restraint followed the big story of the week: Russia's announcement that it assisted the Syrians in intercepting four missiles shot by IAF F-16s at targets in Syria for the first time. Russia's statement came in tandem with its announcement that it is abrogating its 2015 agreement with Israel to coordinate and deconflict Israel's military operations in Syria from Russian forces in the country.

Russia's decision is a major strategic blow.

Now that the Russians have abrogated the Putin-Netanyahu deal, the men who ousted Netanyahu from power face the same bleak scenarios Netanyahu confronted with the arrival of Russian forces in Syria. But unlike Netanyahu, neither Prime Minister Naftali Bennett nor Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have the ability to fly to Russia and convince Putin to reinstate the deal. This isn't because of anything that Putin or Netanyahu did. It is because of something that Lapid and Bennett have done.

Shortly after Bennett and Lapid took office, Lapid spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and announced that he had committed Israel to a policy of "no surprises" vis-a-vis the Biden administration. This commitment devastated Israel's international standing. If Netanyahu's speech to Congress ended the international perception of Israel as a second-rate power and a US client, and transformed Israel's standing to that of a regional power; Lapid's "no surprises" commitment downgraded Israel back to its previous status.

With the threats arrayed against it, a unilateral Israeli move that limits its operational freedom by committing it to provide the US with prior notification of its operations makes no sense in the best of times. It is downright irrational when the Biden administration is feverishly trying to reinstate Obama's nuclear deal as a means to reinstate his strategy of abandoning US support for Israel and the Sunni Arab states and realigning the US towards Iran.

From Riyadh to Gaza, Abu Dhabi to Tehran, from Beijing to Brussels to Moscow world leaders understand what happened. The strategic blow Israel took from Russia this week will doubtlessly be followed from many. Israel's allies and enemies will assess their options in light of the Lapid-Bennett government's embrace of dependence on a hostile administration in Washington.

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