Putin: it is our duty to help Gaza

The Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized in a statement the urgent necessity to provide aid for Gaza. Putin's statement follows a series of statements by senior Israeli officials regarding relations between Israel and Russia, against the backdrop of relations between Israel and Ukraine

Vladimir Putin emphasized in a statement on February 18th, the urgent necessity to provide aid for Gaza. Putin highlighted the severity of the ongoing war. He described the aiding process as a "noble mission".
Putin's declaration to come just a few days after Israel's ambassador to Russia, Simona Halperin, called in by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow for a reprimand following an interview, in which she said that Russia was losing the sympathy of Israelis amid the policies Putin in the Middle East. The ministry called her comments "unacceptable" and accused her of providing a false representation of Russian foreign policy.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sparked controversy last month, when he suggested that Israel was exploiting the Holocaust to justify its actions in the Gaza war. "Israel must not give the impression that their past suffering in World War II grants them impunity for any actions," Lavrov said.
In an interview with the Russian newspaper "Kommersant," Halperin said she was perplexed by Lavrov's dismissal of the Holocaust's significance. "While it is true that many nations endured heavy losses, and the Russian people paid with millions of lives for the triumph over Nazism, we must recognize that no other event in history witnessed the systematic and methodical annihilation of an entire ethnicity." Halperin said, "Only the Jewish people have endured this, and I will repeat it without hesitation."
The ambassador said that despite significant differences in opinion between Israel and Russia, there is no alternative to maintaining friendly relations, and she strongly believes in open and direct dialogue. Halperin also highlighted the mutual interest of both Moscow and Jerusalem in Israel remaining one of Russia's friendly nations.
When asked about Israel's concerns regarding Russia's Middle East policy, Halperin responded, "Let's distinguish between Russia's overall Middle East policy and the way it has unfolded since October 7. The Russian leadership, including at the highest level, has consistently stated that Israel's security is a strategic interest for Russia וnfortunately, after October 7, we observed that this principle is no longer applicable," she said.
"It seems to me that the Russian leadership did not fully comprehend the grave reality we found ourselves in. Hamas, with support from Iran, carried out a brutal and inhumane attack. They set homes on fire with the inhabitants inside and targeted women, elderly, and children. Over 1,200 Israelis lost their lives, and more than 240 were taken as hostages, with 136 still being held by Hamas. It took some time for Russia to publicly condemn the attack, categorize it as a terrorist act, and mention Hamas."
The ambassador went on to say, "If you look at the list of terrorist organizations banned in Russia, you will find the Muslim Brotherhood included. Yet, Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. So, why isn't Hamas on that list? Moreover, Hamas openly declares that October 7 was not the end, but rather, 'there will be another October 7.' They don't conceal it, she said.
"on the contrary, they take pride in it. So, why does Russia not only speak out against terrorism but also condemn the prospect of a repetition of October 7? Instead, Hamas members are warmly received in Moscow, with open arms and rolling out the red carpet for them. We simply cannot comprehend this position."
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מסיבת עיתונאים של שר החוץ הרוסי לברוב באו"ם
מסיבת עיתונאים של שר החוץ הרוסי לברוב באו"ם
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
(Photo:Reuters, Eduardo Munoz)
Halperin also said that despite Russia's claims of engaging in negotiations for the release of captives, it has been nearly four months since people were abducted without being freed. "We are also deeply troubled by the situation in our region as a whole, where Iran incites Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, causing disruptions to the freedom of navigation in the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. This not only impacts the stability of global trade but also leads to price increases. Surprisingly, we have not heard any condemnation from Russia in the United Nations Security Council," Halperin said.
"Russia, which has itself experienced terrorist attacks, fails to support Israel's ongoing battle against terrorism. On the contrary, it shows solidarity with South Africa, which has filed a baseless lawsuit against Israel in the International Court of Justice, accusing it of genocide. I am relieved that the court did not endorse this accusation, but rather instructed Israel to 'refrain from committing acts of genocide' and ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Well look who finally showed up. Israel has been fulfilling these obligations from the very beginning. More than 6,000 trucks have already delivered humanitarian assistance to Gaza."
When asked about Israel's opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Halperin said, "We do not oppose the creation of a Palestinian state in the future. However, such discussions can only take place when Hamas no longer poses a direct threat to Israel. We need a government that is willing to prioritize the development and prosperity of Palestinian society instead of making the killing of Israelis its primary objective. Currently, our main focus is on combating terrorism."
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תמונה של בנימין נתניהו וולדימיר פוטין לוחצים ידיים
תמונה של בנימין נתניהו וולדימיר פוטין לוחצים ידיים
Netanyahu and Putin in better days
(Photo: AP)
The ambassador acknowledged, that Israel and Russia have differences of opinion on various issues but said she firmly believes in open and direct dialogue. "Through understanding each other better, we can influence our shared positions to some extent. It is crucial that we find agreement and foster interaction. Moreover, there are areas where we do not disagree and can collaborate. For instance, we can work together to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas."
Halperin affirmed that Israel support for Ukraine its continued support the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. "We provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and have established a field hospital there." Halperin added that this position has remained unchanged since the start of the conflict.
Diplomatic sources in Israel says that this is yet another decline in the relative decline between Israel and Russia, against the background of the Russia-Ukraine war on the one hand, and the October 7th attack on the other.
For example, in light of Russia's conduct since the outbreak of the war in Israel, MK Zeev Elkin, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, declared that "Russia is behaving like a country hostile to Israel," Elkin says what many in Israel think, including in the government, but will not say out loud.
The tension and "walking on eggs" in Israel-Russia-Ukraine relations began to manifest itself several years ago, when the Israeli judicial system imposed confidentiality on the conduct of an Israeli businessman operating between Israel and Ukraine, due to fear of Russia's reaction, should details of his activities become clear, according to official documents obtained by the editorial.
The businessman, whose name is not allowed to be published, has been active in Ukraine for several years and his name was mentioned during the ongoing trial against businessman Benny Steinmetz in Switzerland. According to the indictment, between 2009 and 2011 the two had a fictitious business partnership that served as a conduit for transferring bribes to the wife of the late President of Guinea, Alpha Conde. According to the indictment, the transfer of funds was made through a series of fictitious transactions with the same businessman. Steinmetz argued in court that the transactions and payments in question were completely genuine, and were for accounting for various businesses in Africa that were operating in partnership at the time.

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בני שטיינמץ
בני שטיינמץ
Beny Steinmetz

At the time, the affair also turned over to the Israel Police, which investigated the businessman because of an amendment to Israeli law that prohibits Israelis from bribing state officials in foreign countries. Since the investigation took place in Switzerland, the United States and Israel, it became known that the businessman signed a state-witness agreement according to which he would have immunity from prosecution in Israel and Switzerland in exchange for his testimony in the Swiss court.
Defense sources familiar with the matter said that the businessman's activity is also tangential to matters at the heart of Israel's foreign relations, and that "he operates in Ukraine, so due to Russian sensitivity, it is clear why Israel is not interested in publicity on the subject."
According to legal sources in Geneva, the acts attributed to the businessman in the indictment are indeed defined as criminal offenses in Switzerland. About three years ago, the businessman was called to appear and testify in court in Switzerland, but did not do so. But in August 2022, when he was called to testify as a prosecution witness, he appeared this time to testify. The sources explain that he did so thanks to a promise that he would not be arrested when he arrived in Switzerland.
Former senior officials in the Israeli judicial system familiar with the affair emphasize that the Swiss promise to the businessman was given, according to their knowledge, based on the granting of immunity in a state-witness agreement issued in Israel, an agreement on which the state imposed confidentiality. The same sources added that by doing so, the investigating judge in Geneva, Claudio Mascotto, who was appointed to investigate the case, apparently found a route that circumvented Swiss regulations on the matter.
And added that everyone benefited from this route, including those in Israel who sought to obscure ties between Israel and Ukraine out of fear of relations with Moscow. Recently, however, it seems that Israel has decided to change course in its conduct vis-à-vis Russia.
First published: 13:53, 02.05.24
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