Relations between Russia and Israel have been those of an estranged couple punctuated by occasional breakouts of tense understanding. As with other such couples, a public row does not necessarily reflect the more placid, if stern, discussion that might happen behind closed doors.
On the public side of things, Russia’s decision to deploy the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria has made Israeli officials apoplectic. That said, Israel’s security establishment were privy to prospects of a possible Russian deployment of the modern, more discriminating air-defence system. The former head of the Israeli Defence Force’s Strategic Division, Brigadier General Assaf Orion at the Institution for National Security Studies, was reflective. “However one may keep in mind that for the last twenty years Israel was preparing for this to appear in theatre.”
In April, Amos Yadlin, the country’s retired Military Intelligence chief stuck his head out to issue a warning: should Russia supply Syria with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Israel’s air force would retaliate. Israel Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman also upped the ante, suggesting that Israel would destroy any S-300 targeting Israeli aircraft. Would Russia call Israel’s bluff?
Any indecision on Russia’s part evaporated in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian Il-20 surveillance plane by Syrian government forces on September 17, leading to the death of 15 personnel. The Syrian action…