Lieberman with Putin
Photo: AP

Lieberman seeking to ally with Russia

Foreign ministry states overt agenda to expand, deepen ties with Kremlin but insists alliance not intended to offset Israel's existing relationship with US, despite recent tensions with Obama administration

As many government officials worry about potential tensions between Jerusalem and Washington following US President Barack Obama's demands on Israel during his Thursday speech in Cairo, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is trying to focus on alliance rather than divergence. But he's not necessarily setting his sights on America.


One of the primary objectives of Lieberman's ministerial agenda is to expand and deepen the strategic ties between Israel and Russia, which many see as a rising superpower.


Russia's position in the international community – membership in the United Nations Security Council, the Quartet and other global organizations – and its military and economic prowess make it a desirable partner in general.


Moreover, Russia's history of influence in Asia and the Middle East, in particular in Iran and Syria, suggest that an alliance with the former Soviet country could be particularly beneficial to Israel.


'Not replacing US'

Israel's interest in developing ties with Russia began during Ariel Sharon's tenure as prime minister and increased during Ehud Olmert's term in office.


Currently, Lieberman's Russian background and a possible change in US-Israel relations under the Obama administration could both serve as factors to push the process forward.


It seems that the Russian side - headed by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - views such an alliance favorably, but Lieberman has not revealed details of concrete progress.  He and his associates have only said of the alliance that it is not meant to offset Israel's existing relationship with the United States.


"There's no doubt that there's no alternative to our alliance with the US, which has and will be our primary partner," said Foreign Ministry representatives. "Ties (with Russia) are meant as an addition, not a replacement."


"We are expanding in additional directions, including Russia, South America, central Asia and India, but our ties to America come first," asserted a senior official in Lieberman's office. Israel's policy towards Russia is an overt goal for the Foreign Ministry, "but was coordinated with the Americans," another official said.


In this capacity, Lieberman is expected to be assigned the role of strategic liaison with the Kremlin at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.


פרסום ראשון: 06.05.09, 16:40
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