Consul general: ‘not very much’ leverage with Putin on Iran in Syria

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

At a briefing hosted by Dayton’s Jewish Community Relations Council, Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York, said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “not very much” leverage with Russian President Vladimir Putin when it comes to reigning in Iran’s military activities in Syria.

“But Prime Minister Netanyahu managed to form good personal relations with President Putin,” Dayan said at the Aug. 28 breakfast briefing at the Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education in Centerville.

“We have good tactical relations with Russia,” Dayan said. “We know we don’t have leverages, but enough common sense in convincing the Russian Federation that it’s in their best interest not to be aligned with a theocratic tyrannic regime like Iran.”

Dayan described Israel’s level of coordination with Russia as “certain.”

“What happens in Syria right now is that you have — in a very small patch of airspace — Russian MiGs flying, attacking one side, and sometimes we fly on the other side. We do not intervene in the war, but if there’s strategic smuggling of arms from Syria to Lebanon, we attack.”

Since Israeli F-16s and Russian MiGs fly in a small patch of airspace with conflicting goals, Dayan said a clash between them would be catastrophic for Israel.

“I remember the day when Russia intervened in the Syrian War physically, with aircrafts. And Prime Minister Netanyahu took the decision that day to fly immediately to Moscow,” Dayan said. “I remember vividly the Israeli press said, ‘The guy is hysterical, Netanyahu.’ Why? He rushed to judgment. Today, everyone admits it was one of the best decisions he ever made.”

Dayan said Israel deals with Russia almost daily on several other complicated issues.

“Israel has more than one million Russian-speaking citizens,” he said. “And they have families in Russia and the former Soviet Union. We have, for instance, issues of pensions, retirement money that they left in Russia and things like that.”

Israel’s most urgent challenge, Dayan emphasized, is the threat from Iran: both its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its efforts to keep a presence in Syria.

“It is the attempt of Iran to create a Shiite extremist territorial strip that goes from Tehran, through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, up to the Mediterranean, to create an extremist, fanatical, anti-Israel, anti-American stronghold that has geographical continuity,” he said.

Formerly the chairman of the Yesha Council — which represents Israel’s settlement movement — Argentinean native Dayan was appointed consul general in New York last year, after Brazil refused to accept him as its Israeli ambassador because of his leadership in Yesha. With the closure of Israel’s Philadelphia consulate in 2016, Ohio now falls under the New York consulate’s jurisdiction.

Dayan was in Dayton to address a Christians United for Israel rally and fund-raiser at the Schuster Center on Aug. 27.

Regarding the Netanyahu Cabinet’s June 25 vote to suspend expansion of a non-Orthodox prayer area at the Western Wall, and to give Israel’s Chief Rabbinate exclusive oversight of Jewish conversions in Israel, Dayan said he is “less than proud” of Israel’s record on the issue of religious pluralism.

“In Israel, we have a tremendous, lengthy political system that sometimes prevents us from taking the right decisions,” he said, comparing the process to the American issue of gun control.

“You need a presence in Israel,” Dayan said of liberal Jews. “These are political decisions. And since Reform and Conservative don’t have a strong electorate in Israel, the American Jewish community has to be more involved in the lobbying and explaining.”

On Aug. 31, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the government to either reinstate the Western Wall agreement with non-Orthodox groups or explain why the state shouldn’t be required to honor the deal.

To read the complete October 2017 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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