Syrian Kurdish forces hold IS fighters from Sweden

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Swedish radio says that US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces are holding foreign fighters with the Islamic State group from Sweden.

Tuesday’s report comes as the US-backed forces are battling in northern Syria to retake the city of Raqqa, IS’ de facto capital of the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate.

The Ekot news program says jihadi fighters from other countries are also being held by the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, the Kurdish militia that forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Ekot didn’t provide details on how many jihadi fighters from Sweden are being held.

Sweden’s security service, known by its initials SAPO, has said that up to 300 people from Sweden have joined radical Muslims in the past six years.

There was no immediate comment from the Swedish Foreign Ministry.


Iranians hold Nazi-tinged ‘Trumpism’ cartoon contest



TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranians have organized a “Trumpism” cartoon contest in which hundreds of participants have been invited to submit artwork mocking the US leader.

The same organizers held a Holocaust cartoon contest last year, which they said was meant to highlight Western double standards on free speech and not to cast doubt on the Nazi genocide.

The logo for the Trump contest is based on the Nazi emblem, with a diagonal “T” in a white circle against a red background. One cartoon shows US President Donald Trump painting a Hitler-like mustache on the face of the Statue of Liberty.

The exhibition, which opened Monday, includes the works of some 1,600 Iranian and foreign participants. The winner of the top prize will get $1,500.

An Iranian woman looks at cartoons of US President Donald J. Trump at an exhibition of the Islamic Republic's 2017 International Trumpism cartoon and caricature contest, in the capital Tehran on July 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iranian cartoonist Hadi Asadi poses for a picture with a trophy and an award next to cartoons of US President Donald J. Trump, at an exhibition of the Islamic Republic's 2017 International Trumpism cartoon and caricature contest, in the capital Tehran on July 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

An Iranian woman looks at cartoons of US President Donald J. Trump at an exhibition of the Islamic Republic's 2017 International Trumpism cartoon and caricature contest, in the capital Tehran on July 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Iranian reformist cleric Mahmoud Doaei looks at cartoons of US President Donald J. Trump at an exhibition of the Islamic Republic's 2017 International Trumpism cartoon and caricature contest, in the capital Tehran on July 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

An Iranian woman looks at cartoons of US President Donald J. Trump at an exhibition of the Islamic Republic's 2017 International Trumpism cartoon and caricature contest, in the capital Tehran on July 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE



A study published by the University of Teacher Education in Vienna released on Saturday showed that almost 50% of young Austrian Muslims maintain an antisemitic attitude. The systematic delegitimization of Israel in Muslim-majority countries helps explain “imported antisemitism” into Europe, wrote the Austrian daily Der Standard in their report on the poll.

The poll asked Austrian Muslim students if they felt that “Jews have too much influence in Austria,” and 48% agreed with the statement.


The students aged between 16 through 19 have migrant backgrounds from a diverse set of Muslim-majority countries and some non-Muslim nations, including Bosnia, Turkey, Albania and Bulgaria. The students study at apprentice schools while working in the restaurant and hotel industry.

The authors of the study, Georg Lauss and Stefan Schmid-Heher, told Der Standard, in which the study was first reported, that “educational and prevention efforts against antisemitism need to be strengthened.”

The Der Standard article cited a 2015/2016 study by the Vienna Sociolologist Kenan Güngör that showed similar results of widespread antisemitism among young Austrian Muslims.

According to his study, 47% of Austrian Muslims hold an antisemitic view. Güngör said there is an “imported antisemitism among Muslims” in Austria.

Güngör told the newspaper that there is an “established narrative” among young Muslims, in which the West represses the Islamic world and Israel is the spearhead of this movement.

Whether in talk shows or in radio, Israel is consistently conjured up as the great enemy, added Güngör, who considers this form of Islamic antisemitism to be dangerous. He said the foundation is present for antisemitic violence in Austria in the context of new Middle East conflicts involving Palestinians and Israelis.

Youth counselor Ercan Nik Nafs told the daily that Turkey and Israel had good relations until 2010. Israel intercepted the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara to prevent its violation of the UN-sanctioned naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The Mavi Marmara was occupied by scores of jihadists and the seizure involved the deaths of nine of them. “At this time, strong state-sanctioned propaganda against Israel and Jews began in the Turkish media,” Nafs said.

Der Standard wrote there are pressing questions surrounding the need to confront antisemitism among Muslim immigrants, writing the “refugee movement, where people from Syria, Iraq and Iran came to Austria, and in whose countries hostility toward Jews was politically cultivated” helps explain Jew-hatred.

The article noted that young Austrian Muslims cannot differentiate between Israeli Jews and Austrian Jews. Austrian schoolteachers are ill-prepared to explain to students the role of Israel in the conflict with Palestinians, wrote Der Standard.



More than half the asylum seekers in Bavaria subscribe to classic antisemitic views about Jewish power, according to a poll released last week.

The study, conducted by the Hanns Seidel foundation – a think tank affiliated with the Christian Social Union party in the southern state of Bavaria, polled nearly 800 refugees during 2016 from the Bavarian cities of Nuremberg, Poing und Pliening. Their countries of origin are Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan.


“More than half of Muslim asylum seekers showed clear tendencies of an antisemitic attitude pattern,” wrote the authors of the 201-page study examined by The Jerusalem Post.

When asked by the investigators if “Jews have too much influence in the world,” 52% of Syrians said yes, while 53% of Iraqis agreed with the statement. Nearly 60% of Afghans said Jews wield too much influence, while a mere 5.4% of those from Eritrea – a Christian-majority country – held antisemitic views. Some Eritreans said they were familiar with Jews from the Bible.

The number of Germans who affirmed the antisemitic statement about Jewish influence was 20%. In April, however, a new German government report revealed 40% of the German public hold a modern antisemitic view: the hatred of Israel.

The Seidel study said “the decisive factor that explains antisemitic opinions is one’s religious group. Antisemitism in all age groups and educational background of Muslim asylum seekers,” is anchored in the educational system of the refugees’ countries of origin. A Syrian refugee named Mustafa said that “In Syria we were taught to hate a Jews a little bit. The government presented Jews as bad [people] who kill…”

According to the study, there are “emotional prejudices against Israeli families from the side of the refugees.”
The study also polled the refugees about their views toward women, the reasons they fled their homelands, and whether they wish to remain in Germany.

In 2015, a German intelligence report on the absorption of refugees and migrants stated: “We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab antisemitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples as well as a different societal and legal understanding.”

The document added: “German security agencies… will not be in the position to solve these imported security problems and thereby the arising reactions from the Germany’s population.”

A senior level security official said, “The high influx of people from all parts of the world will lead to instability in our land.”
The official added, “We are producing extremists through immigration. Mainstream civil society is radicalizing, because the majority don’t want migration and they are being forced by the political elite.”

Abbas, Sissi hold ‘reconciliation’ meeting in Egypt

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi held what Egyptian media called a “reconciliation” meeting in Cairo on Monday.

Relations between Egypt and Abbas’s administration have been tense over a range of issues, including Cairo’s contacts with the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

According to the PA official news outlet Wafa, during the meeting at the Heliopolis Palace in Cairo, the two leaders “coordinated their stances” on Palestinian issues, including the realization of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The meeting came as preparations were being made for the Arab League summit in Jordan on March 29, as well as trips to Washington for the two leaders, both scheduled for April.

The summit came after US President Donald Trump president waded into the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sending one of his top advisers to the region last week for talks with Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, the US president's assistant and special representative for international negotiations, at Abbas's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (WAFA)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, the US president’s assistant and special representative for international negotiations, at Abbas’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (WAFA)

The PA’s foreign ministry called the meeting between Sissi and Abbas “a bilateral response to all those who have tried to put into question the deep, strong and lasting historical relationship between the Egyptian Arab Republic and the state of Palestine, or to obfuscate the existing harmony between presidents Sissi and Abbas.”

Relations between the two soured when Egypt in December withdrew a draft resolution in the UN Security Council against Israeli settlements. The draft was later re-submitted by other countries and adopted by the council.

In late February, senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub was denied entry to Egypt, prompting a Palestinian delegation to withdraw in protest from a counterterrorism conference he was set to attend.

Abbas later claimed the barring of Rajoub from Egypt was the result of a mixup.

Egypt and the PA have also been at odds over Cairo’s warm relations with Abbas’s rival Mohammad Dahlan, with whom the PA president has been warring since he expelled Dahlan from the Palestinian territories in 2012.

Osama Qawasmeh, spokesman for Abbas’s Fatah faction, said on Monday that relations with Cairo have been “a little bit cold” recently, but the time was right to “restore this very important and strategic relationship.”



The Palestinian Authority government announced on Tuesday that it will hold municipal elections set to take place on May 13 in the West Bank without the Gaza Strip, ending hopes that the Palestinian governing body would be able to organize the first nationwide elections on the same day since 2006.

The PA, which dominates the West Bank, failed to convince Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to hold elections in the small coastal enclave.


Over the past several weeks, the PA dispatched Nasser Hanna, the chairman of the PA Central Election Commission, Husam Zomlot, an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and a number of other officials to Gaza to convince the Hamas leadership to participate in the planned municipal elections and facilitate their taking place in Gaza.

Tariq Rishmawi, a PA government spokesman, squarely placed the blame on Hamas for the elections not taking place in Gaza.

“Hamas is responsible,” Rishmawi said in a telephone call. “Hamas informed us that it will not allow for elections to take place in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas rejected on Tuesday the PA’s decision to hold elections in the West Bank without Gaza.

“The West Bank government’s decision to hold local elections in the West Bank without Gaza amounts to reinforcing the split,” Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said in a press release.

The PA originally planned to hold municipal elections in September, but postponed them for four months following disputes over the legitimacy of courts in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas.

Following their postponement, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah declared that he wanted to find a mechanism to resolve the courts’ issue and hold elections in all Palestinian provinces.

In January, Hamdallah announced the creation of a special court that would bypass the disputed courts in Gaza, a move flatly rejected by Hamas.

Rishmawi said the PA plans to continue its efforts to convince Hamas to hold elections in Gaza at a later date than May 13.

The last municipal elections in 2012 also only took place in the West Bank with Hamas refusing to participate in or allow them to take place in Gaza.

Republicans have long talk about replacing Obamacare, but no bill yet


Washington (CNN)Congressional Republicans insist they are moving forward on their campaign pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, but internal divisions over key components mean they will head home for a week-long recess with few details on how they will overhaul the nation’s health care system.

Republicans huddled in the basement of the Capitol for a closed-door meeting Thursday to hear presentations from the two committee leaders leading the effort — Oregon Rep. Greg Walden and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady — who outlined plans to set up tax credits and restructuring how states will administer Medicaid programs that provide coverage for millions.
Members coming out of the meeting continued to stress they were unified on their goal and campaign promise to do away with the Affordable Care Act, but no draft language was was handed out. Most members described a more robust discussion of the House GOP’s “Better Way” health care proposal that they campaigned on in 2016.
“This is a complex issue, one of the members said ‘hey you’ve got to keep this simple.’ You can’t keep this simple. When you are talking about health care and rolling back 2,600 pages of the Affordable Care Act this is going to take some complexity,” Republican Rep. Mark Walker, the head of a group of fiscal conservatives, said after the meeting.
Many conservatives, despite the lack of details, said they are confident that there will be a vote in the first quarter of the year — a goal that House Speaker Paul Ryan has set.
But other members said their new target for moving legislation from committees to the House floor was sometime in mid-April.
In recent weeks, town halls in member’s districts have erupted with angry pushback from voters who are uneasy about the Republicans’ plans to transform the health care system.
At Thursday’s meeting, there was a PowerPoint presentation and members were supposed to get paper versions to bring home, but they weren’t ready in time for the meeting. Instead leaders promised to give each member packets with information so they will be armed with some more answers for voters.
A PowerPoint distributed after the meeting included quotes from Americans who had been negatively affected by the Affordable Care Act and included maps of just how much premiums had gone up in individual states and how few options there were in some places. The slide show included a briefing of the three-part plan to give regulatory relief through administrative action, repeal and replace using reconciliation and then move forward with additional legislation.
Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga told reporters he wasn’t worried they still hasn’t seen a bill from leaders yet, noting that the Democrats’ efforts to design Obamacare took 14 months.
“We knew we haven’t gotten into this overnight,” Huizenga said. “We are not going to get out of it overnight.”
The official cost estimate of the GOP proposal is still a work in progress by the Congressional Budget Office. Members are awaiting the results.
“If it comes back and it’s out of the roof then it might take some more time to figure out how to pay for this,” Walker admitted.
Missouri GOP Rep. Ann Wagner downplayed the fact that leaders didn’t unveil actual legislation, telling reporters “I think we’ve got the outline of things that will be a part of a bill and part of a reconciliation package going along. We have had this in place for some time, and now we’re getting down to some of the very specifics.”

Trump’s man aims to reassure GOP

Newly installed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who recently resigned his House seat, attended the meeting and pledged “the president is all-in on this.”
But GOP leaders are concerned that the window for action is tight and they are scrambling to corral members around a proposal. The more time they take the more that counter-pressures from the right and left — to speed up or slow down the process — are making their job more difficult. They are using a budget procedure known as reconciliation to repeal major planks of the law and begin the process of replacing it. This process allows them to pass the measure with a simple majority in the Senate. But they want to use a similar strategy for tax reform so they are mindful of the need to get bill moving soon so they can tackle other issues this spring.
Price discussed the need to stick with the timeline the leaders set out. “Let’s not miss this opportunity. Let’s go shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm,” he said.
But multiple members from across the ideological spectrum stressed that a lot of decisions still hadn’t been made on key issues.
“So there’s obviously unanswered questions and — no shocker here — we have differences of opinion even within our conference,” Huizenga told reporters.

Future of Obamacare taxes, Medicaid programs

Committee leaders walked through several policy issues they are working through such as how to design tax credits for those who will be shopping for health care in the new system and how to address how money will flow to states that administer the Medicaid program.
They went over plans for creating high-risk pools and proposals for incentives for broader use of health savings accounts. In the PowerPoint sent out after the meeting, there was a promise to “deliver relief from the Obamacare taxes,” “eliminate the individual and employer mandate penalties,” and “repeal Obamacare spending for the Medicaid expansion and the new open-ended subsidies.”
But in some areas, there was no clear consensus. For example, the details on how states would handle the Medicaid program are still being worked out. Republicans from Medicaid expansion states have been fighting to keep their expansion money and ensure voters back home who were covered under the program could remain on it, but Medicaid has long been a top target for fiscal conservatives looking to make cuts in the budget. There is wide consensus that states need more flexibility in handling their federal Medicaid dollars, but there still are not clear details on whether that flexibility will come through block grants or per capita allotments is still up in the air.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brady told reporters that the discussion was also ongoing as to what to do with Obamacare taxes. Conservatives have said the taxes need to be repealed immediately, but others have been arguing that Republicans will need to keep the taxes in place in the short term to fund their own Obamacare replacement.
Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas told reporters that he had no actual budget numbers of how each program- from tax credits to health savings accounts- would be funded, a key factor in whether or not Republicans will be able to rally around the plan.
“They did not overlay the money and that is the big question,” Sessions said. “You cannot pass policy, you have to pass money. It’s about money.”
So far, a leading member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus didn’t sound impressed with what he heard from his leadership.
“So far it just sounds like Obamacare light,” said Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador.

Western navies (White Freemasons) hold major drill off coast of Iran

Western navies held a series of drills off the coast of Iran last week, in a show of force in light of increased Iranian harassment of foreign military vessels.

The exercises, dubbed “United Trident,” were led by the United Kingdom and included ships from the US, France and Australia. The navies practiced fighting off enemy aerial incursions and mine clearing, as well as live fire drills, according to the British daily Telegraph.

The final drill featured 13 ships from the allied navies sailing in formation, with helicopters flying overhead.

British naval officials told the Telegraph that the drills had been planned for some time and were not connected to US President Donald Trump’s recent adoption of a more hardline stance against Iran, which resulted in the imposition of sanctions Friday on a number of individuals and entities involved in the country’s ballistic missile program. Rather, they said, they were rather meant to promote stability in the Persian Gulf and to ensure “the free flow of commerce” through the Strait of Hormuz.

Satellite view of the Strait of Hormuz (photo credit: NASA/Public domain)

The strait is a narrow waterway connecting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Sea through which a fifth of the world’s oil supply passes.

Iran has previously threatened to close off the strait in the past over tensions with the US, a move that would lead to turmoil in global oil markets.

Last week, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari was dismissive of the show of force close to Iranian waters, telling the semi-official Mehr news agency that “they talk a lot.”

He also warned the Western navies against encroaching on Iranian waters, saying, “This is our red line.”

Iran has had numerous confrontations recently with US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and around the Strait of Hormuz, with the most notable case being Iran’s capture last January of 10 US Navy sailors who had drifted into Iranian waters after experiencing mechanical problems.

File photo of the USS Mahan destroyer, seen in September 2002. (Public Domain/Photographer's Mate Airman Rex Nelson, US Navy/Wikipedia)

Earlier this month a US Navy vessel fired three warning shots at a group of Iranian ships that approached the destroyer at high speed in the strait.

US defense officials said the USS Mahan called on the four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels to slow down, but they continued to approach at high speed. This led the ship to fire flares and a helicopter dropped a “smoke float” signaling device, according to Reuters.

UN Security Council to hold urgent talks on Iran ballistic missile test

The UN Security Council will hold urgent talks Tuesday on Iran’s test-firing of a medium-range missile said capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, diplomats said.

The United States requested the emergency consultations after the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations called for council action.

“In light of Iran’s January 29 launch of a medium-range ballistic missile, the United States has requested urgent consultations of the Security Council,” the US mission said in a statement.

The talks on Iran will follow a meeting on Syria scheduled for 10:00 am (1500 GMT).

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said the test of the 4,000 kilometer range (2,500 miles) ballistic missile violated UN resolutions that bar Iran from launching ballistic missiles that could have a nuclear capability.

“The international community must not bury its head in the sand in the face of this Iranian aggression,” said Danon.

Israel ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon addresses the UN Security Council on January 17, 2017 (Courtesy)

“The Security Council members must act immediately in response to these Iranian actions which endanger not only Israel, but the entire Middle East.”

It was the first request for council consultations made by the United States since new US Ambassador Nikki Haley took office.

US President Donald Trump has promised to strengthen ties with Israel and has sharply criticized the Iran nuclear deal that led to a lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.

Trump is due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15.

Terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, Netanyahu promptly demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” that the Obama Administration and other P5+1 countries agreed with Iran in 2015.

The missile test, which Fox News reported took place on Sunday, was unsuccessful; the Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile flew 600 miles and then exploded, it said, citing US officials. Israel’s Channel 10 television said the failed test actually took place about 10 days ago. It said the Iranians were plainly “testing Trump,” who last week, in a phone conversation with Netanyahu, said the two would consult closely to address “the threats posed by Iran.”

The nuclear deal, intended to thwart Iran’s rogue nuclear program and championed by President Barack Obama as a “game-changer,” has been consistently castigated by Netanyahu as “a bad deal” that actually paves the way for an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

Asked about the missile test, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said they were looking into the report.

“We’re aware that Iran fired that missile. We’re looking into the exact nature of it,” Spicer said.

UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015, calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran argues that because the nuke deal forbids them from pursuing a nuclear weapon, no ballistic missile is capable of carrying atomic arms that don’t exist and thus tests of them are not out of bounds.

A long-range Qadr ballistic missile is launched in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran on March 9, 2016. (AFP / TASNIM NEWS / Mahmood Hosseini)

Britain, France and the United States have sought council action over Iranian missiles launches last year, but Russia and China opposed discussion of possible sanctions that they argued would jeopardize the hard-fought nuclear deal.

News of the test came a day after Trump committed to enforcing the Iranian nuclear deal, despite his campaign pledge to dismantle the landmark accord that he has repeatedly called “disastrous” and “one of the dumbest deals” he’s ever seen.

In a Sunday phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud, the president pledged to “rigorously enforc[e] the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” referring to the deal’s formal name, according to a White House readout of the conversation.

US President Donald Trump seen through an Oval Office window  gives a thumbs up as he speaks on the phone to King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House on January 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

As a candidate, Trump often sent mixed signals about how he would handle the Iranian nuclear threat if he was elected. In his address at last year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, he vowed both to rip up the pact and enforce it.

Since Trump’s election in November, his advisers have signaled that he would not unilaterally walk away from the agreement unless Tehran violated its terms.

Dichter: Israel and Russia hold diverging views on Mideast

MK Avi Dichter (Likud), a former head of the Shin Bet security agency, said Tuesday that Russia’s interests in the Middle East by no means coincide with Israel’s and that the Jewish state must be vigilant concerning Russia’s growing influence in the region.

In an interview with Reuters, Dichter, who serves as chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that while Israel-Russia ties were good and that there was mutual respect between the two countries, “Russia thinks and acts as a superpower and as such it often ignores [the] Israeli interest when it doesn’t coincide with the Russian interest.”

Over the past year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice and has spoken with him on the phone six times, praising thedeveloping relations between them and their convergence of opinion on a range of issues. Israel and Russia have been coordinating on a number of issues including a de-conflicting mechanism between their respective armies, set up to assure the Israel Defense Forces does not strike Russian jets operating in Syrian airspace.

Dichter, however, warned Tuesday that “the gap between us and them is large and disturbing” on a number of issues.

Whereas Israel considers Iran its greatest foe in the region and makes defending itself against Lebanese terror group Hezbollah a top priority, “Russia does not view Iran and its proxies according to the level of threat they pose or broadcast towards Israel,” Dichter said, adding that Russia “view[s] Hezbollah positively as the errand lackey of Iran in Syria and Lebanon, (and) they are backing the Shi’ite militia activity in Iraq and Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) holds a joint press confrence with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on November 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On a number of other key issues, namely the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war and Iran’s role in the region, Dichter noted, Russia and Israel hold diametrically opposing views.

Dichter emphasized that it is important to understand that Russia’s renewed interest in the region, amid a pull-back from the United States under President Barack Obama, is by no means temporary, as “it did not return to the Middle East with military capabilities in the air and at sea only to ‘show off’ and then leave.”

“The new neighbor did not come here only to rent an apartment, he came here to build a villa,” Dichter cautioned.

It is not yet clear what policy changes, if any, will come to pass under President-elect Donald Trump, but the brash billionaire has indicated that under his administration, US policy on Syria might align more with Russia’s.