WikiLeaks: Immigrants have warmed Israel-Russia ties

However, close ties to Israel do not appear "to have had much impact on Moscow’s 'pragmatic' positions on issues such as arms sales to Syria."

December 7, 2010 04:45
2 minute read.
Russian and Israeli flags (left to right)

311_Israel, Russia flags together. (photo credit: Courtesy)

While former US president Bill Clinton indiscreetly said recently that the nearly 1 million Russian-speaking immigrants who have arrived in Israel since 1990 have placed an obstacle in the path to Israeli-Palestinian peace, a US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks shows that Russians see the immigration to Israel as a vital bridge bringing the two countries closer together.

The Russian immigrants who have come to Israel since 1990 have come to the country with a “positive feeling” toward the country of their birth, something that has “played well within Russia” and generated “warm feelings toward Israel,” according to a US assessment of Russian involvement in the Middle East released in the last few days by WikiLeaks. This was not the case, the cable reported, for those Jews who fled Soviet oppression in the 1970s and 1980s.

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The cable, titled “Return of Russia to the Holy Land,” was written on July 11, 2008, by Robert Patterson, the acting political counselor at the US Embassy in Moscow, shortly after Russia and Israel announced they were close to finalizing the transfer of the Sergiev Compound in Jerusalem to Russia and just before an end to the visa requirement for Russian tourists to Israel.

According to the dispatch, both the transfer of the property and the end of visa requirements “are the latest indicator of deepening Russia- Israel relations that depend significantly upon personal contacts as well as official channels.”

The dispatch quoted an unnamed apparently Russian official as saying the massive immigration created a bond between the two countries that had a profound impact on Russia- Israel relations. According to the dispatch, the Israeli embassy estimated that “tens of thousands” of Israeli Russian speakers live and work in Moscow.

According to the cable, “during Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon, Russian television showed Russian-speaking Israeli soldiers, which helped heighten Russian sympathy for Israel’s situation.”

The cable quoted the unnamed official as saying opinion polls showed that Russians were more inclined to have a favorable opinion of Israel than of the US.

The dispatch said that despite the growing ties with Israel, Moscow was able to maintain its “pragmatic” stance on weapons sales to Syria as well as maintain close contacts with Hamas because of an ability to “compartmentalize aspects of a foreign policy that fostered relations with Israel and Syria simultaneously.”

The dispatch, which was sent prior to the war with Georgia in the Caucasus about a month later, quoted both the unnamed official and Israeli Embassy officials as saying separately that “military sales to Georgia were not an irritant in Russia- Israel relations, although the GOR [Government of Russia] had asked Israel not to sell offensive weapons systems to Tbilisi.”

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