Photo Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman

Israel has agreed to accept the return of Syrian regime forces to southern Syria, in exchange for the assurance by Russia that Iran will distance itself from the country.

For its part, Russia agreed with Israel’s right to self-defense, according to a report broadcast Monday by Israel’s Channel 13 television news. The report said Israel set the condition that the Russians would keep the Iranians and Hezbollah away from the border with Israel, in exchange for the return of Syrian government forces to the southern region of the country.

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The understanding was reached and finalized in a discussion last Friday between Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

According to the report, Israel’s Defense Ministry underlined Israel’s view that the Iranian presence should be entirely eradicated from Syria, not only militarily and not only from the southern part of the country, but also from an economic standpoint as well. In short, the Iranian presence in Syria should be eliminated in its entirety.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said in remarks to the Knesset on Monday that Iran should be pressured to leave Syria altogether. “We believe that there is no room for any Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria,” he said. “And of course, this reflects not only our position; I can say with certainty that it also reflects the positions of others in the Middle East and outside it.”

Netanyahu added that “this will be the main focus of discussions” during his trip next week to Berlin and Paris to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Liberman leaves this Wednesday for a meeting set for Thursday in Moscow with Shoigu to continue discussions on the matter.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.