Why Israel prefers a hot line to a military coordination center with Russia

There is a big difference between the latest headlines saying that the IDF and the Russian military will coordinate their operations, and the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Monday, Sept. 21, to establish a mechanism to prevent misunderstandings and clashes between the two militaries. Neither the Russian military force in Syria, which is growing every day, nor the IDF have any plans for a body that will allow each side to inform the other of ground, air or naval operations about to be carried out in the Syrian theater.

Russia does not want the IDF to find out anything about its military moves or intentions, and the IDF does not want the Russians to have advance notice of any operations it is about to conduct in Syria, or of Israeli Air Force surveillance missions overhead. 

debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that this is the reason why Putin and Netanyahu, and afterwards the Israeli chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot, and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, agreed on the establishment of a hotline between the Russian and Israeli general staffs.

This communications channel will connect the offices of Gerasimov’s deputy, Gen. Nikolay Bogdanovsky, in Moscow and of Eisenkot’s deputy, Gen. Yair Golan, in Tel Aviv. 

The hotline will enable the two sides to ask to clarify events, without offering their reasons for doing so. In other words, the hotline will be used at a time when Russian or Israeli military operations in Syria are underway, and senior officers are acting to avert a probable clash between the two military forces – or after the event.

In the first instance, it will be important to cut the clashes short without delay to avert an escalation of hostilities.

Besides the technical arrangements for operating the hotline, the two deputy chiefs of staff will need to meet, get to know each other, and agree on a framework of military topics for discussion. This process could take several weeks.

In other words, the issue at hand is not coordination of military operations, but rather a mechanism that goes into action fast to assess collisions after the event and determine how to prevent them in the future.

In any case, Israel is constrained from full military coordination with the Russian military, especially in the Syrian theater, by the IDF’s commitment to joint operations with the US and Jordanian army via US Central Command Forward-Jordan. The IDF moreover maintains mechanisms for coordinating its air, naval and missile operations with the US military.    

Russia, for its part, coordinates its military operations in Syria with its close ally, Iran, which is also Israel’s sworn enemy.

debkafile's military sources note that the Russian chief of staff was not in uniform when he received Gen. Eisenkot. This was a demonstration of the Russian intention to downgrade the military aspect of the Israeli-Russian talks.

Before flying out of Moscow, Netanyahu announced that he had briefed Washington fully on its talks with Putin, thus ascertaining that those talks in no way impaired any aspect of Israeli-US military cooperation.

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