Move comes as Russia seeks new allies in wake of crisis with West over annexation of Crimea.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have upgraded their relationship, with an agreement that the two leaders will be connected by a special hotline between their two bureaus.
The decision, which comes even as ties between Russia and Israel’s major ally the US sink even lower, was announced Friday by Moscow.
“The Russian government has decided to accept the proposal from Russian security service, in conjunction with the Russian Foreign Ministry, to set up a secure line that will allow a direct and encrypted connection between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the country said in a statement.
The decision means the immediate commencement of negotiations between Russia and Israel to set up the direct line between the two leaders.
Russia has secure telephone lines with leaders in various countries around the world. The first was set up in 1963, between Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and US President John F. Kennedy, in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis. In 1966, the Soviets also launched a similar hotline with France, at the time led by President Charles de Gaulle. Moscow went on to set up further direct lines with Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and South Korea.
Russia expert Alex Tentzer says the move aims to allow Russia and Israel to converse on sensitive issues that impact on both nations without any intervention by the United States. Israeli and American leaders also have a direct line.
“Russia feels very close to the Israeli leadership,” says Tentzer. “The Russians want to speak to Israel without anyone eavesdropping – in particular the US.”
The establishment of the line also has ties to ongoing events in Ukraine, in which Russia came under fierce international criticism for its annexation of Crimea. Israel is one of the few countries that did not condemn the move by Moscow, a decision that in turn was criticized by Washington.
In the wake of the crisis with the West over Ukraine, Russia decided to strengthen its ties to other nations, including China, India and Israel. Jerusalem and Moscow have also drawn closer recently over regional security issues such as Syria and Iran