Mironov: Gazan rocket attacks are unacceptable

Russian upper house chief emphasizes Israel's right to self-defense and its close ties to Moscow.

mironov 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
mironov 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
On a brief visit to Israel in honor of the state's 60th anniversary last week, Sergey Mironov, speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, whose first visit to Israel was marked by controversy back home, emphasized Israel's right to self-defense and its close ties to Moscow. "We do not accept the rocket attacks against Israel," said Mironov. "We believe that these are unacceptable and that Israel has a full and complete right to defend itself. But we also believe that retaliatory actions while defending Israeli citizens from acts of terror should not lead to death or suffering of peaceful civilians." In March 2002, during his first visit to Israel, Mironov decided not to meet with Yasser Arafat because "terrorist actions in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Israel have common roots, primarily financial," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. Mironov last week said brokered Arab-Israeli negotiations would be "useful" and that "the initiative of our [former] president Vladimir Putin of carrying out a sort of conference or forum in Moscow would be of use." "It would be counterproductive to drive Iran into the corner," Mironov also said, but "we realize what problematic consequences there might be for the region and for the geopolitical situation in the world at large if Iran gets nuclear weapons." The Russian people, he said, "understand that Israel has a right to defend its own population and people, and I mean really defend." Unlike many of the dignitaries visiting last week, Mironov has had the opportunity to see firsthand the havoc wreaked by terrorism against Israeli civilians. Six years ago, Mironov was paying his first visit to Israel when a Palestinian terrorist killed several civilians. The next morning, Mironov changed his itinerary and asked to be taken to the scene of the attack to lay flowers at the site. "Unfortunately we in Russia by that time knew very well indeed what terror meant and what death meant coming from terror acts," said Mironov. "When I laid the flowers, I talked to the people who were standing there with candles and they happened to be parents of those who died. Some of them addressed me in Russian and what I heard impressed me very much." It impressed him so much, in fact, that it was one of two factors in a fateful decision later that visit. After a personal meeting with then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, Mironov decided to cancel his scheduled trip to Ramallah for a meeting with then-Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat, and instead held a second meeting with MKs. "It is the usual procedure when someone visits Israel, he also visits Ramallah. But at that time, I took the decision not to go to Ramallah and meet with Arafat but to have another meeting with Knesset members," Mironov recalled last week. "I have to say that in Russia my way of dealing with it has been given different evaluations and assessment. The most softly put wording was that I was the author of a diplomatic scandal. But not then and not six years after do I regret in any way what I did." Russian-Israeli cooperation, Mironov said, was good - but could still be increased. "We have good trade and economic relations but usually it is said that there is no limit to perfection in this field. I would say that the most promising avenue of cooperation is hi-tech. Israel is one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of hi-tech. We have a lot to learn from Israel and to combine our efforts to go further. So Israel's health service and medicine is the talk of the town, it is a very well known thing in Russia and this is also an open field for our cooperation to increase." Such cooperation, he said, was natural given the close ties between many Russians and the more than one million Israelis who were born in the former Soviet republics. Israeli's security situation has also yielded fertile ground for present and future cooperation, he added. "I would like to stress that the experience, unfortunately very vast, of how to counteract terror in Israel is being studied carefully in Russia and I know that there is close cooperation between the special forces. I have heard many times our cooperation characterized as 'very, very reliable.'" Many of the terrorists, Mironov said, who acted against Israel and Russia were trained in the same camps. "In light of this, any kind of exchange of experience is of great practical use and I would like to stress once again that we are very satisfied with this kind of exchange." Mironov also spoke out against anti-Semitism in Russia, characterizing home-grown anti-Semites as "the lunatic in the family." "During the eight years of Vladimir Putin's presidency, he returned a feeling of pride to Russians, a feeling that is very well known to Israelis. The great power and a great people should not and cannot have sentiments of Nazism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism," he said. "And I would like to say that at the end of the day any such mentality - these manifestations are against the nature of the Russian people."•