Israel Knows That Putin Is the Middle East’s New Sheriff

JERUSALEM — In 2001, shortly after he was elected prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon traveled to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the Kremlin.


According to Danny Ayalon, who was an adviser to the Israeli prime minister at the time, Mr. Putin, as is the habit of world leaders, urged Mr. Sharon to hand over territory in the West Bank to the Palestinians. Mr. Sharon, as is the habit of Israeli leaders, got tired of it. Israel, he said, is a tiny place, and for it to give away territory can be dangerous. On the other hand, he said, Russia is such a large country. So it might want to consider giving back the Kurile Islands, which Russia claimed from Japan at the end of World War II. “Russia never cedes territory,” Mr. Putin supposedly retorted. “How else do you think it has gotten so big?”


Two years after that meeting, Mr. Sharon, who grew up speaking Russian, called Mr. Putin “a true friend of Israel.” His unmatched humor made it possible for him to say such things with straight face.


Mr. Putin has a similar ability to hide his true feelings. For evidence, see how he was able to string along the Obama administration over a plan for a cease-fire in Syria. For more evidence, see Russia’s recent announcement that the Kremlin plans to initiate a summit meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Moscow.


Read More: Israel Knows That Putin Is the Middle East’s New Sheriff – The New York Times