There was genuine warmth in yesterday's meetings with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, including his encounter with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netayahu. It was a comaradarie, however, that did not blur Jerusalem's red line issues.
Making sure those lines stay sharp, Netanyahu stood at a twin podium with Medvedev where the latter publicly listened to Netanyahu's message for Moscow. "We are determined to do two things," he said.
What the men discussed in private is guessable. A Russian envoy consisting of its most powerful ships and subs have arrived off the coast of Syria and Turkey - and Israel. Russia is poised to dramatically increase its military operations in Syria where it seeks to defeat ISIS and secure the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Accordingly, Medvedev is likely to have discussed the increasingly complex logistics of coordinating with IDF missions that include Syrian airspace, Syrian land and Syria targets.
One delicate issue for Jerusalem is that its greatest ally, the United States, also seeks to destroy ISIS (a.k.a. Daesh), but simultaneously aims to remove Assad from power. It is a difference with Russia that has both sides upping a game of military chicken that could easily result in an explosive collision. Israel finds itself between the two superpowers, not wanting to provoke either one.
Thus, when he spoke in public with Medvedev at his side, Netanyahu began by affirming the common goal of defeating ISIS. "Israel, Russia and he US and many other countries share the goal of eliminating Daesh. "Israel, Russia and the US and many other countries share the goal of eliminating Daesh," he began. Then, with a gentle admonition, he added, "I think that cooperation between all of the elements I have said toward this goal serves each one of us and also serves humanity."
In other words, please don't go to war with each other, especially in our back yard.
Acknowledging the threat posed by ISIS, he then drew a bead on Tehran. ISIS, or Daesh, Netanyahu said, are not the only problem.
To the same extent, we are also concerned by the second element leading radical Islam and this is Iran which champions the destruction of Israel and also supports 360 degree terror on five continents.
Then he drew the line.
We are determined to do two things.
First, prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons and second, to prevent Iran – in any situation that arises in Syria, with or without an agreement – from establishing itself militarily in Syria, on the ground, in the air or at sea.
We are also determined to prevent it from bringing about the establishment of Shiite militias, which it is organizing, and of course, the arming of Hezbollah with dangerous weapons aimed at us.
Notably, Medvedev's office in Moscow did not include a single word of Netanyahu's main concern. Instead the government's official website cited an "excerpt," quoting only Netanyahu's affirmation of friendship and announcement of new trade agreements with Russia.
For his part, Medvedev's remarks tipped the hat to the problem of terrorism, but said nothing about Iran's sponsorship of terror in the Middle East and around the world.
Instead, he focused on meaningful progress for increasing economic trade with Israel. Moscow and Israel have inked four new agreements to improve trade:
A new protocol for taxation of trade;
Housing development and construction services;
A roadmap for sharing agricultural technology; and
Declaration of "twin cities" between the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, a technology park near Moscow, and Yokneam Illit, headquarters for a number of high-tech companies in Israel. The location of Yikneam Illit, in the north, overlooking vast and fertile farms in the Valley of Jezreel, makes it a natural center for technological developments in agriculture.