Foreign Ministry Director- General Dore Gold will travel to Moscow on Wednesday for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other high-level officials.
The visit comes amid heightened tension between the world powers over the situation in Syria, and as there is increasing talk – including by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday – of a return to the Cold War.
Jerusalem and Moscow have been in close contact since Russia stepped up its involvement in Syria in September, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flying to Moscow that month to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish a deconfliction mechanism to ensure that Israel and Russia do not accidentally engage one-another in Syria.
The two leaders have spoken on the phone a number of times since, and have agreed to continue their dialogue regarding the situation in Syria and other regional issues.
The tension between Moscow and Washington presents somewhat of a challenge for Jerusalem, which is keen on maintaining a good working relationship with Russia while at the same time not doing anything that could in any way damage its ties with the US.
In a speech Sunday night to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu – who spoke of how Israel was interested in expanding its international alliances – said: “I want to say emphatically that we have no illusions that America remains the best friend of the State of Israel. The United States and Israel are the greatest allies.”
Gold will fly to Moscow from Berlin, where he is currently accompanying Netanyahu and four other ministers taking part in a government- to-government meeting with their German counterparts. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, both for a private discussion and during a wider joint-cabinet meeting.
Before leaving for Berlin on Monday, Netanyahu met visiting US envoy to the UN Samantha Power for a discussion the Prime Minister’s Office said focused on “the wave of terrorism and the Palestinian incitement that feeds it.”
Netanyahu showed Power a brief video of examples of Palestinian incitement in the schools, in the PA media and by PA leaders – the same video he has begun showing all the foreign leaders he meets. He also showed that video on Monday to the visiting foreign ministers of Iceland, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, and Norway, Borge Brende, with whom he met separately.
Netanyahu was joined in the meeting with Power by Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
At all three meetings, Netanyahu drew a direct connection between incitement and the increase in violence and terrorism, and called on the international community to demand that the PA halt incitement.
Power also met Monday with President Reuven Rivlin; visited the bilingual Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem; and addressed a UN Model Conference at the American International School in Even Yehuda where she said Israel is “just not treated like other countries” in the UN.
She pointed out the absurdity that every year there is one resolution in the General Assembly directed at Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime, and that against Israel – “again, there are legitimate criticisms that one can make, and you hear us make criticism of settlements and other aspects of Israeli policies” – there are 18 aimed at Israel.
“Part of our posture in New York is dedicated to trying to ensure that criticism of Israel are about policies, and not the existence of the state itself, which is what it feels a lot of that criticism is motivated by,” she said.
“Remember, there are many countries that still either whisper, or even say outright, that they wish Israel did not exist, and we will always defend Israel from those kinds of attacks and always stand up for its security,” she added.
Netanyahu’s office said his meeting with Iceland’s foreign minister focused on strengthening bilateral relations and increasing technological cooperation, while the talks with Norway’s foreign minister focused on bilateral ties, as well as the diplomatic process with the Palestinians and developments in the region.