The Russian foreign ministry released a statement today that included the unprecedented recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The statement reads:
We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The statement seems to have taken the Israeli government aback, as a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry only commented that “We are studying the matter.” And it’s not clear to what extent the statement represents a serious policy shift for Russia, on either the Palestinian question or on moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
But as the Trump administration considers whether or not to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it’s worth remembering that while the U.S. was the first to de facto recognize Israel 11 minutes after its creation, the Soviet Union was the first country to recognize Israel by law. This time around, the Russians might just make the first move.