The 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel will be celebrated next year. Twenty years is not a long time, but I would like to emphasize that we are talking about a resumption of relations. The first relations were established in 1948, when the Soviet Union played a key part in the recognition of the State of Israel.
History does not move in a straight line. There have been twists and turns in Russia’s relations with Israel, each connected with the swinging of the political pendulum and with complicated internal processes in both countries. The main thing we can point out today, 20 years after the resumption, is that these relations are on the up and up, as parliamentarians ensure a legislative foundation of bilateral cooperation.
In light of the date, we can think about the prospects of cooperation from the parliamentary point of view. I would like to stress that Russian-Israeli relations have obtained a positive dynamic and have gained content in every sphere.
We pay high tribute to the significance of intensive and open dialogue between our leaders. It allows a good level of coordination between Russia and Israel on a number of key problems involving global policy.
The Middle East settlement is an important subject of bilateral dialogue. Russia still intends to make a positive contribution to the achievement of a comprehensive, fair and long-term settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the same time, we are about to act through the Quartet of international mediators and through bilateral contacts with Israel and other interested parties.
It is necessary to recall that the resumption of diplomatic relations between our countries coincides with the beginning of the Madrid peace process in the Middle East, in which our country played an important role as co-sponsor.
We are ready to use our experience to break the present deadlock regarding settlements. We hold a great interest in peace in the Middle East, located in immediate proximity to Russian territory. But achieving this lifelong goal depends on Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
I also think that parliamentarians of our countries, with great opportunities to influence public opinion, can do a lot to change the political and psychological climate.
Counterterrorism is the other important direction of our cooperation. This subject is particularly meaningful for Russia and Israel. We should share experiences between Russian and Israeli special services in the sphere of anti-terrorist activities, including use of up-to-date technical data.
Cooperation in the humanitarian sphere has also been developing positively. I mean cultural exchanges, tourism and personal contacts. The opening of the Russian Cultural Center in Tel Aviv in 2007 helped a lot, as did the signing of a reciprocal agreement in 2008 canceling visa requirements between Russia and Israel.
IN THE past two years, Russian-Israeli economic cooperation has suffered from the world economic crisis, but this is a temporary matter. The main thing is that we have to show the practical opportunities and potential of cooperation to the fullest extent. I am sure that the future of our economic relations has to be connected not only with traditional ways, (although they are very important), but with hi-tech too.
The intellectual potential of our countries, a favorable investment climate in Israel and the firm desire of the Russian authorities to modernize and transfer to a knowledge-driven economy, are objective prerequisites to this issue. The special features of Russian-Israeli relations determined by history lay a heavy responsibility on us parliamentarians. I have to say we are satisfied with the present level of development of Russian-Israeli interparliamentary relations. In recent years they have become stable, and remain dynamic.
Good personal contacts between members of the Council of Federation and deputies of the State Duma with colleagues from the Knesset contribute a lot. There is an important role being played by Robert Ilatov and Ze’ev Elkin, chairmen of the Israel-Russia Parliamentary Friendship League, and their Russian colleagues Boris Isaakovich Shpigel, head of the committee for cooperation of the Council of Federation with the Knesset, and Nikolay Nikolaevich Gonchar, head of the deputies group for relations with Knesset.
The first meeting of the Russian-Israeli interparliamentary commission in April in Moscow animated the further deepening of our cooperation. A reciprocal document for strategic cooperation between committees of our parliaments became one of the most important results of this meeting.
It is about time to switch to concrete cooperation, where the lawmaking experience of our parliaments will be particularly in demand. The legal provisions of Russian-Israeli cooperation in the sphere of innovation can become one of these directions.
It is probably necessary to think about opportunities to involve our Israeli colleagues in participation in the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in forms acceptable to everyone. The present year was proclaimed “a year of science and innovation” in the CIS. Our assembly is now working on a draft code for the CIS member nations aimed at the organization of an integral mechanism for the regulation of innovation. I suppose it will be very interesting and, of course, useful to discuss these issues.
I would like to express my confidence that inter-parliamentary relations between our countries will continue to develop.
I have no doubt that our mutual efforts will help to make these relations a more important factor in Russian- Israeli cooperation.
In conclusion, I must mention one more important date.
This year we have been commemorating the 65th anniversary of the great victory over fascism. The anniversary allows us to recall the immortal feat of the nations that battled the “fascist monster” self-sacrificingly. And of course we remember the large number of victims the war caused.
It is our sacred duty is to stand up against every attempt to distort and falsify history. I am talking about attempts to pretend that there was neither a Holocaust nor any significant sacrifice by the Soviet nation in the most terrible war in history. This is an insult to the dead.
Russia and Israel have to reject these falsifications, and not only
because of the anniversary. I am sure it has to be done everywhere, at
every time and in every situation. It is necessary to pass on the whole
truth about World War II to young generations. There is a Yiddish
proverb: “A half truth is a whole lie.” From earliest infancy, our
children have to absorb the truth about those tragic and momentous
On December 17 the Council of Federation will hold an international
conference in Moscow on “A world without Nazism is the global aim of all
the mankind.” There is no doubt that the participation of our Israeli
colleagues will be important and useful.
The writer is chairman of the Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.