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Russia and Israel, Sitting in a Tree

The flirtation between Russia and Israel we noted in June just got deeper this week when Russia helped postpone UNESCO voting on several resolutions against Israel.

Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, and a few others had separately pushed for UNESCO to condemn some of Israel’s recent actions, including archaeologic digs in UNESCO-protected Old Jerusalem and the neglect education in Gaza. But at the last minute Russia pushed for a measure that postponed voting, usurping America’s role of Israel’s defender at the UN. Times of Israel has the story:

The votes were set to take place at the organization’s meeting in Paris, but Russia’s envoy presented an alternative plan stipulating that the resolutions be delayed for six months during which negotiations would be held with Israel to send a UN fact-finding team to Jerusalem. According to the proposal, Israel would not be required to agree to host the team.

In the lead up to the meeting, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan met with representatives of European countries to try to block the resolutions. However, the Russian initiative, that caught the Jordanian, Palestinian and Syrian representatives by surprise, passed with 28 votes in favor and 23 against.

Russia’s recent acts of kindness towards Israel should not be particularly surprising. Putin’s recent visit showed that the two countries might be warming towards each other, and their shared interests concerning Turkey and the rise of radical Islam give them ample room for cooperation. In particular, both countries resent Turkish aspirations to become regional power. Russia is particularly galled by Turkey’s recent decision to take a stand against Russian gas by refocusing on the Caspian natural gas pipeline, while Israel’s relationship with Turkey has reached its lowest point in decades.

And, as we’ve noted earlier, there are those huge new energy reserves Israel now brings to the table. After Putin’s recent visit to Jerusalem, Gazprom signed a gas deal with his Israeli hosts.

As long as their interests remain aligned as they are now, expect this romance to continue.

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