Last Minute: Putin & Netanyahu Act to Defuse Il-20 Crisis
President Donald Trump has left it up to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to resolve the crisis with Moscow over the Russian Il-20 spy plane crash and Moscow’s counter-measures – although the upset was partly rooted in his falling out with President Vladimir Putin over Syria. (See separate articles.) Therefore, when Trump faced reporters after meeting Netanyahu in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 26, he brushed off the crisis as of no importance. He had already been informed by Netanyahu that a solution was a work in progress and an Israeli-Russian summit would take place some time soon.
DEBKA Weekly’s exclusive sources report that Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabat and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, had made working on a formula in the last few days. The Russian president was meanwhile acting to de-escalate the furor in Moscow, which had found expression in anti-Semitic language in certain Russian defense and military quarters. The air needed to be cleared before Putin and Netanyahu could get together.
The prime minister therefore had the outline of a plan, cleared by Putin, for showing to Trump:
- The deconfliction agreement covering Russian-Israeli military coordination for Israel’s operations in Syria would be amended.
- Current arrangements would be observed until the Russian and Israeli leaders meet.
- Putin would then also decide how – and if – the delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Syria fitted in with the amended coordination protocols.
That was why Trump and Netanyahu skipped over the crisis with Russia when they sat down on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Trump was happy to shunt it aside, pending the prime minister’s interview with Putin and resolution of the dispute over the delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Syria.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources found both optimistic about Putin making the right decision and cancelling this shipment. They were also looking forward to his meeting with Netanyahu producing a broader consensus: Putin was expected to agree to directing Tehran and Damascus to halt forthwith deliveries to Syrian air and sea ports of Iranian consignments of arms and advanced weapons systems for Syria and Hizballah. Israel would reciprocate by stopping its air strikes over Syria. Violations of this deal by Iran or Syria would be dealt with at the highest Russian and Israeli levels.
If this tradeoff is concluded between Putin and Netanyahu, the Il-20 crisis between Jerusalem and Moscow can be laid set to rest and the S-300 missile shipment to Syria cancelled.
Just reported: Patrushev arrived in Tehran on Thursday to discuss with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani “the situation in Syria and the Middle East and issues of Russian-Iranian cooperation in the sphere of security,” according to an official statement,. DEBKA Weekly’s sources believe it likely that Patrushev put before the regime in Tehran the planned tradeoff for Syria before it is discussed at the forthcoming Putin-Netanyahu meeting.