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Moscow and Ramallah: The new alliance

Analysis: Palestinians may soon be the ones to threaten US (and Israel) by inviting Russia to the negotiating table as a partner and mediator.

Published: 04.06.14, 20:39 / Israel Opinion

Last week, the Palestinian Authority halted (until further notice) the talks with Israel and the United States. That is the proper definition for the decisions made by the Palestinian political echelon, which led to a deadlock in the negotiations.



The Netanyahu government did play for time and stutter in response to the initiatives of American Secretary of State John Kerry, but (most of the government) did not want to stop talking – if only because talking prevents another intifada-style popular outburst. And also because the Americans asked us to, both nicely and not nicely.


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The hidden Israeli assumption was that the Palestinian political leadership would not dare disobey the US either; that it was only flexing its muscles; that it would be willing to walk on the edge without crossing it. From Jerusalem, a Palestinian cost-benefit calculation appeared relatively simple: A continuation of US aid and backing if the talks go on, or economic damage and diplomatic isolation if they are halted.


This led to the conclusion that the Palestinians were pursuing a new deal in order to "improve their position." In contrast to his usual method, Netanyahu did not reject the possibility of such a three-way deal out of hand. He even made practical suggestions for its formation.


But at the decisive moment, the Palestinians more or less spat in America's face. Have they gone mad? Have they lost their mind? Don't they understand that, in today's dismantled Arab world, they have no real friend to lean on? Not to mention the fact that they have no significant supporters beyond the Middle Eastern region.


But perhaps they do: Take a look in Russia's direction. Unexpected things are happening there. Russia has concentrated a large military force along its border with Ukraine and is capable, according to NATO leaders' estimates, of invading the country within half a day's order. President Vladimir Putin appears to be looking for the right excuse to do that: The Kremlin is waging an internal and external false campaign unlike anything seen for at least 30 years. The campaign aims to prove that the current Ukraine government is fascist, pro-Western and is persecuting the Russian minority members to the point of putting their life in danger.


On the other side, the government in Kiev is releasing documents which it says prove that the Russian secret services were involved in commanding the crowd dispersal unit whose officers fired on protestors at Maidan Square, killing dozens of people. The conflict is growing and could deteriorate into violence at any moment.


Change in balance of power

Under these circumstances, it's only natural that the Kremlin is interested in expanding its (very limited) global circle of friends, and that the Palestinians are interested in an alternative patronage, in a strong, reliable friend with deep pockets. The Russian-Palestinian strategic alliance appears, therefore, to be a self-evident political and diplomatic move, which serves both sides very well.


From a Russian strategic point of view, the Palestinian Authority is perceived as an ideal bridgehead to the Arab world and as a fighter against the radical and fanatic Islam, which Russia sees as an enemy too. Some of the PLO's leaders studied in Soviet universities, understand Russian and share Putin's opinion that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was "the greatest political disaster of the 20th century."


From a Palestinian point of view, Russia's credibility as a world power which does not abandon its protégés has been clearly proven in its attitude towards the Assad regime in Syria. Ramallah officials are certain that Russia can, within hours, approve emergency economic aid at a volume which the US is incapable of approving under any circumstances. Russia's representative at the UN will vote in favor of upgrading Palestine in the organization, while the US representative will object. The "Duma" (Russian assembly) in Moscow sympathizes with them, while the Congress in Washington is hostile towards them.


This is, therefore, an exemplary meeting of interests. Implementing it will change the balance of power in our region. Today, Secretary of State Kerry can threaten the Palestinians (and Israel) by warning that America will wash its hands off the attempt and effort to bring about a solution to the conflict. Tomorrow, the Palestinians will be the ones to threaten Kerry (and Israel) by inviting Russia to the negotiating table as a partner and mediator.


Who knows, perhaps Russia will be a better mediator after all.


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