Putin’s offer to shield & develop Israel’s gas fields predated Russia’s military buildup in Syria

A multibillion Russian investment in the field would make it a Russian project which neither Syria nor Hizballah would dare attack, even though it belongs to Israel.

But now the situation has assumed a different face. Russian forces are streaming to Latakia, and Moscow has declared the area from Tartous, Syria up to Cyprus closed to shipping and air traffic from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7 in view of a “military exercise including test firings of guided missiles” from Russian warships.

When he offered a shield for Israeli gas fields in late August, The Russian ruler knew that implementation would rest with Russian military forces on the spot, rather than Iranian and Syrian reluctance to harm Russian interests.

Then, on Aug. 30, Netanyahu discussed the new Russian proposition with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi when they met in Florence, in the context of the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s involvement in Middle Eastern and European energy business and his close ties with Putin.

Berlusconi and Netanyahu are also good friends.

The Israeli prime minister never explicitly confirmed to Putin that he would consider the Russian transaction.

He hesitated because he sensed that a deal with Moscow for gas projects would be unacceptable to Washington and Noble Energy of Texas, which holds a 39.66 percent share in the consortium controlling Leviathan, as well as stakes in the smaller Tanin and Tamar gas wells.

Israel’s strategic landscape had in fact changed radically in four respects:

2.  The new Russian ground, air and sea buildup taking shape in Syria provides a shield not just for the Assad regime but also Hizballah. This too calls for changes in Israel’s military posture.

3.  The Russian military presence in Syria seriously inhibits Israel’s flexibility for launching military action against Iranian or Hizballah targets when needed.

4. Three aspects of the new situation stand out prominently:

a)  The Russian air force and navy are the strongest foreign military force in the eastern Mediterranean. The US deploys nothing comparable.

Full article: Putin’s offer to shield & develop Israel’s gas fields predated Russia’s military buildup in Syria (DEBKAfile)

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