MKs maintain diplomatic silence over conflict

With both Russians and Georgians in Israel constituting critical voting blocs in upcoming municipal elections, such silence may be understandable.

Solodkin (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Only last month, the Knesset held an enthusiastic celebration of Georgian-Jewish heritage, with MKs from the former Soviet Union taking a leading role in the festivities. But less than four weeks later, many of the same MKs chose to maintain a diplomatic silence concerning the intense conflict between Russia and Georgia. The party with the largest concentration of MKs from the former Soviet Union, Israel Beiteinu, is enforcing a policy of silence on the subject. And, with both Russians and Georgians in Israel constituting critical voting blocs in upcoming municipal elections, such silence may be understandable. "We understand that both Russians and Georgians are in a serious state because war is always a humanitarian tragedy," said MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima), who met with her many Russian-speaking constituents in Ashdod Sunday. "The situation is complex and confusing because all of the borders in the Caucasus were drawn by Stalin, without any reference to demography." Solodkin added that she was ready to serve as an intermediary, should the need arise, to negotiate between the warring sides in order to help rescue Jews caught in the cross-fire, as she had done in Chechnya at the beginning of the decade. A side-effect of the conflict for Israel, said Solodkin, who is frequently asked to represent Israel on Russian-language BBC news programs, is that the Russian public can now better understand Israel's complaints regarding media bias. Russians, she explained, have complained in recent days that the western media outlets are painting an overly-sympathetic picture of the Georgian side of the struggle. "I am very happy that Russians now understand what it is like to be Israeli from the perspective of the international press," said Solodkin. "You hear them complaining that 'even the BBC doesn't understand what is happening in the field.'" She added that her own attempts at hasbara would be improved by the fact that Russia had now adopted a phrase, "determining peace," that would be useful to explain Israel's actions in Gaza. Itsik Moshe, chairman of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, said however that Israeli politicians should be identifying with the Georgian and not the Russian side of the conflict. "Just as Israel is on the front line of the conflict with fundamentalist Islam, one of the great threats to world stability, Georgia is on the front line of the second threat - Russian assertion of control over the small countries on her borders," said Moshe from his Tbilisi office. "Israeli leaders need to show solidarity with Georgia just as the presidents of France and the United States expressed their solidarity with Israel. I don't know if Israel has a better friend in the world than Georgia," he continued.