Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (center), shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right), looks on in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2015. (Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his embattled Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to either leave office and make room for a transitional government or be forced out, Israeli officials say.
Putin delivered his ultimatum at a meeting between the two in Moscow on October 20, and comes as Russia joins other world powers in setting a timetable for a new Syrian government after nearly five years of civil war.
Senior Israeli officials told The Times of Israel that Assad received a markedly chilly reception in Moscow, his first trip abroad since the insurgency broke out in February 2011, tearing Syria apart, killing more than 200,000 people and turning millions into refugees.
Putin demanded that Assad and his associates enter negotiations with moderate elements in Syria on instituting a temporary government that would stay in place for about a year and a half – until general elections can be held, the officials said.
The meeting preceded this week’s talks in Vienna between Arab and Western states on a possible political solution for war-torn Syria.
One major point of contention concerns Assad’s immediate future. The Iranians are demanding that Assad remain as Syrian president in any scenario, including during the period of a transitional government. But the Russians, who have historically backed Assad and have begun carrying out airstrikes in support of the regime, do not favor that idea and are prepared to see Assad being out during the 18-month transitional government.
The US, in contrast, at first demanded Assad’s immediate resignation. But due to the current pressing need for intensive action against Islamic State in Syria, it is now prepared to see him gradually transfer powers to a transitional government and retire.
One question that does need answering is who will be able to vote when elections are held in Syria. Will it be only the country’s current residents, or will the millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and even Europe be allowed to cast their ballot?
Assad’s possible participation in future elections also poses a difficulty. As long as he insists of being a presidential candidate, the Americans and Saudis are opposed to elections. The Russians would agree to his participation but only if Assad first resigns as president during the period of the transitional government.
The rocky dispute over Assad’s future is complicating ties between Tehran and Moscow, despite the apparent coordination on Syria.
While the Iranians are interested in a continuation of the air cover Moscow is providing for their actions on the ground, they don’t want an increase of Russian control in the arena.