Palestine-Israeli conflict, which began in October 2023, has received global condemnations, while South Africa became the first to concretely showcase large-scale genocide accusations at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, Netherlands. According to the United Nations reports, Israel’s relentless military campaign on Gaza has since left at least 26,083 dead – about 70 percent of them women, children and adolescents.
At first, Russia has been extra-cautious talking about the Palestine-Israeli situation because of two main factors. The first is connected to its own military bombardment of Ukraine, distinctive similar to Israel’s. South Africa has not raised genocide allegations in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, though. As the developments at the Gaza Strip show, it has taken on the genocide case triggered by a disproportionate military response or the high number of Palestinian casualties.
Then the second point is Russia has an excellent relations with Israel that it found it extremely difficult to publicly condemned Israel’s atrocities on Palestine. Russia and Israel have been strengthening their bilateral relations. Both have stressed the importance of continuing active work in all areas of bilateral cooperation and the development of economic and trade, scientific, and cultural spheres, despite the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, and specifically between Palestine and Israel. Russia, at the initial stages suggested adopting measures to undertake a broad dialogue in ensuring territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Putin, as far back, on October 2023, expressed Russia’s sincere condolences to the families and friends of the Israeli victims. In addition he warned about further escalation of violence and to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. In particular, he informed the Israeli side of the key points of the telephone conversation with the leaders of Palestine, Egypt, Iran and Syria. Besides warning, Russia’s principled commitment to continue its work to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and achieve a peaceful settlement through political and diplomatic means was reaffirmed.
It was only quite recently, in December last year, that Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated Russia’s principled position in rejecting and condemning terrorist in all of its manifestations, the Kremlin press service said after his phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The conversation focused on the situation in the zone of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and, in particular, on the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Vladimir Putin reiterated the principled position of rejecting and condemning terrorism in all of its manifestations. Along with that, it is extremely important to ensure that efforts against terrorist threats do not entail such severe consequences for the civilian population,” it said.
The situation in the zone of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was among the central topics during Putin’s talks with the Saudi Crown Prince and the Presidents of the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Egypt earlier in December 2023. Israel declared a total blockade of the Gaza Strip and launched bombardments of the enclave and some areas in Lebanon and Syria, as well as a ground operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Late January, the Israel Defense Forces has stormed a number of cities in the West Bank in sharp escalated battles with Palestinian resistance, according several media reports including Al Jazeera. Israel has declared a complete siege of the Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Egypt and Jordan have also submitted settlement proposals for the Gaza Strip.
The Middle East is becoming a new arena of geopolitical confrontation. And Russian experts on the Middle-East issues have been up and offering their views since the conflicted October 7, the beginning of the conflict. The experts maintained that Russia has been actively building up its relations with countries across the Middle East in the context of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Middle East expert Andrey Ontikov told Izvestia newspaper that if the Europeans and Americans truly wanted to promote the idea of a two-state solution, they could put some pressure on Israel’s leadership.
“While a part of the elite is committed to the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state, others believe that the [window of] time for this has been lost. Much will depend on the outcome of the war,” he said, adding that resolving the Palestinian issue politically would depend on both the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves, Dmitry Mariyasis, leading researcher with the Department of Israel Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies.
According to experts interviewed by Russia’s Izvestia newspaper, Moscow’s goal here is to find partner support in its confrontation with the West, including in Ukraine. Finding ways to reduce tensions not only between the Jewish state and radical Palestinian movement Hamas, but also in the region as a whole became a key topic of discussion at a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
On 28 December 2023, Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov praised Netanyahu for not criticizing Russia in public statements regarding the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. Lavrov said that Russia’s goals of “demilitarization” and “denazification” in Ukraine were similar to Israel’s stated goals of defeating Hamas and extremism in Gaza.
Excerpts from the briefing held on January 12, 2024, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed absolute regret over the massive civilian casualties in the current escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “Russia proceeds from the unacceptability of targeted violence against civilians and the deliberate destruction of medical facilities and other civilian infrastructure. Our country calls for strict compliance with international law, an immediate ceasefire in accordance with the decisions of the Security Council and the UN General Assembly,” argued Zakharova, while she closed her eyes on the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict which began 24th February 2022.
In a nutshell, Russia has appreciable multifaceted relations with Israel these several years, just as it has with South Africa. But what seems to be important for the Kremlin is readiness to provide possible assistance to alleviate the suffering of civilians and de-escalate the conflict. In the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin’s comments on Palestine-Israeli was just that in addition to reaffirm its principled position on the essence to avoid such grave consequences for the civilian population while countering terrorist threats. In short, there would not be any attempt, not even the least sign in the near future, to sever decades-old relations between Israel and Russia.