President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ended their telephone conversation on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at odds on the Iranian and Hizballah presence in the Syrian de-escalation zone near the Israeli border.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that Putin reminded Netanyahu about his deal with President Donald Trump for the creation of a de-escalation zone stretching from the Syria-Jordanian-Israeli border junction at the Golan up to Mt. Hermon. The southernmost section is 20km wide, but the northern one is only 7km from Israel’s northern Golan border. (See attached map.) Putin noted that 1,000 Russian military police officers were already deployed there to monitor security and ascertain that no party violates the ceasefire in this zone.
Netanyahu replied that he was not challenging the de-escalation zone per se, but so long as Iranian and Hizballah forces were present there, Israel could not guarantee not to open fire, if its border security was threatened.
The impression gained by our sources was that Putin was anxious to obtain this Israeli semi-commitment – to refrain from striking Iranian and Hizballah forces against Moscow’s promise of responsibility for holding them back from attacking Israel – to put before the trilateral summit he had convened in Sochi on Wednesday, Nov. 22. It was to be attended by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and approve steps for moving Syria from a state of war to a political settlement.
Netanyahu continued to stand by Israel’s demand for all Iranian and Hizballah forces to quit the de-escalation zone along the Syrian-Israeli border. Our military sources take the fact that Putin did not meet this demand as indicating that his clout for achieving this in Tehran and Beirut is limited.