Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Russia has finally found a lever with which to gain revenge on the United States and the West for its support for Ukraine. As payback for the painful sanctions imposed on its economy, Moscow is now brandishing a new diplomatic sword.
The man who handed the Kremlin this sword on a silver platter, thereby enabling it to divert the world’s attention away from what is taking place in Ukraine, is none other than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Out of total desperation given the near-zero chance of gaining UN Security Council approval of a draft mandating an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Abbas has now turned to Russia, one of the five permanent members of the UNSC, in hopes that it will help Ramallah advance the draft resolution.
“How didn’t we think of this before?” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov must be thinking to himself. “Here’s an excellent issue to play with in the UN with which to drive the Americans crazy.”
Lavrov seems downright jovial in the photograph showing him receiving veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat during the latter’s visit to Moscow. For his part, Erekat looks as if he has hit the jackpot – an alliance with Russia, a dream come true for the Palestinian people. Both men, however, are fooling each other and themselves.
In truth, Russian support for the Palestinian draft resolution won’t contribute an iota to advancing the document in the Security Council. Lavrov, who once served as Moscow’s envoy to the UN, knows this full well. In the three years since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Russia has consistently thwarted every attempt by the Security Council to pass a resolution with the aim of removing Bashar Assad from power in Damascus.
The Russians even torpedoed strictly declarative, nonbinding, and symbolic resolutions put forward by the US and the Europeans who sought to condemn the Assad regime. The Americans don’t like seeing the Security Council involve itself with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a portfolio that Washington views as its exclusive domain. One doesn’t need to be an expert in international relations to guess how the Americans would react to a Russian bid to push forward a Security Council draft paper on the Palestinian question, particularly after US Secretary of State John Kerry has also gone on record as stating that the proposed resolution is unacceptable.
What does Moscow gain from all this? It buys time – two, perhaps three days during which the UN doesn’t talk about Ukraine. That’s quite a shabby gain for a country that seeks to solidify its standing as a world power. The Palestinians, meanwhile, are shooting themselves in the foot. Not only have they angered Washington with their obstinacy, insisting on submitting the draft paper for a vote, but now they are perceived by the Obama administration as courting Vladimir Putin, a US adversary. Ramallah wants guarantees from a Russia that is barely hanging on economically due to Western sanctions.
Decades ago, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, said of the Palestinians: “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Now it seems they have stepped up their diplomatic game. Abbas and his cohorts in the Palestinian leadership have intentionally created an opportunity – a UNSC draft resolution and an appeal to Russia – that they will not miss.