The Putinization of Israel: Netanyahu Cozying Up to Russia May Cost Israel Dearly

A couple of years ago, farmers in the Jordan Valley began to sing the praises of the Russian market. As more and more retailers in Western Europe boycotted their peppers and dates, the Israeli farmers thought they had found a sensible alternative to the Western Europeans who had been, until that point, their biggest clients.
Some sneered that Europeans boycott West Bank produce for “humanitarian reasons” – but only until their stock runs out. “I boycott them back. My base is Putin, not some European idiot,” one farmer told this reporter last year.
This week Israel seemed to have embraced the pepper-farmers’ bitterness as official foreign policy, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retaliated against the EU for its decision to label settlement products and cozied up to Vladimir Putin for the second time in two months.
Meeting on the sidelines of the COP21 Paris climate summit, Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin talked for 45 minutes, about Syria. Both boasted of Russian-Israeli military cooperation and promised to expand them. Putin even got to display his Jewish chops by talking about the meaning of Hanukkah.
Putin, being Putin, looked relaxed, lounging back as Netanyahu spoke. Netanyahu, on the other hand, looked wound-up. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that a Russian jet recently breached Israel’s airspace (and was not shot down), a poignant example of Russia’s “we can do whatever we want and you can’t do anything about it” attitude.


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