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The Kremlin issued a statement following a meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday that pleased Jerusalem and underscored the positive role Israel feels the Russians have, up until now, played during the current crisis.
"The Russian leader expressed his hope that the high-level diplomatic mission from Saudi Arabia and joint diplomatic efforts by Russia and Saudi Arabia will help find a mutually acceptable solution to the troubled situation that has developed today both in Lebanon and in Palestine," began the communiqu , in typical diplo-talk.
Then came the sentence greeted with satisfaction in Jerusalem.
"In connection with this, Vladimir Putin restated Russia's position, a position which condemns any attempts to resolve problems by resorting to terrorism. The state of Israel has the right to and should live in security, the Russian head of state emphasized."
In those circles in Jerusalem where statements from foreign capitals are read and parsed carefully, what stood out was that this was the message Moscow chose to underline following a meeting with the Saudi foreign minister.
Nothing in diplomacy is random, and governments carefully choose what parts of various meetings they wish to release. That Putin saw fit to underscore this message precisely after a meeting with the Saudis sent a strong message of friendship to Israel and a strong anti-terrorist message to the world.
In the first few days of the fighting, by contrast, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement blasting Israel for "disproportionate and inadequate use of force, endangering the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon and peace and security across the region."
"We urge Israel to cease incursions into Lebanon and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in the country and lift the blockade of its territories," that very critical statement read. "By armed means, as the Middle East experience shows, the problem of security cannot be solved," the statement continued.
Putin's statement from Tuesday, it seems, was meant to correct the impression left by the Foreign Ministry's statement.
The overall feeling in Jerusalem is that, all-in-all, Russia has "behaved itself quite well" during the crisis, going along with the international community which called for the release of the captured IDF soldiers and an end to the rocket attacks on Israel at the G-8 summit last week, and not tussling with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who prevented a call for an immediate cease-fire from emerging at Wednesday's Rome Conference.
While in the past Russia has taken a position on issues decidedly contrary to those of the US in order to chart a course independent from Washington, Moscow has not followed a similar policy during this crisis. At the same time, Moscow has also not used a lot of leverage in Damascus to get the Syrians to rein in Hizbullah, with some believing that perhaps the Kremlin's leverage in Damascus is not as great as was previously believed.
Russia has taken a moderate line during the entire conflict. Had Putin so desired, he could have made things much more difficult for Israel at the G-8 in St Petersburg, at Wednesday's conference in Rome, and at the UN in New York. That he hasn't done so has not gone unnoticed in Jerusalem.
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