mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Russia in the Middle East
Will the U.S. Be the Second Country to Move Its Embassy to Jerusalem?

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Isaiah601

    Did anybody else notice that all this out-pouring of pro-Israel sentiment from places like UK and Russia started taking place in late January of this year? Did something happen then? There must be a connection, but what??? What might it be??? Little help here.

    • Ellen

      The Arab world, meaning the Sunni Arab political order, is disintegrating once and for all. The Arab states that are falling apart, including those, like Saudi Arabia and potentially Egypt and Jordan, that haven’t fallen apart but are likely to implode in the near future, will never be put back together again as they were previously. Israel, 1 or 2 Kurdish states, and Iran may be the only significant national entities left standing within a few years in this entire region.

      • Makaden

        No, that is too easy.

        In the same context, Putin backs away from Assad. And Assad–apparently–launches chemical attacks shortly after the Trump administration has been beating the drums against Obama–rightly–for failing to respond to Assad after the first chemical attacks. Why would Assad launch another? To “test” Trump? In the context of Putin’s distancing from Assad and this (major) cozying up to Israel, something is definitely afoot that none of us can see.

        • Ellen

          Putin may be backing away from Assad because he is now a major liability and a delusional psychopath. Russia can stay in Western Syria and protect the Alawites, with Trump’s consent, without propping up Assad, as long as there is a political agreement with some Sunni “leaders” and a “moderate” group of Sunni fighters to patrol the Sunni parts of Syria.

          Putin has been a supporter of Israel for a long time. What I don’t understand is why he would be recognizing Israel’s capital when it isn’t going to lead to a Palestinian state in return, which has always been a Russian demand. The PA must really be on the verge of collapse or some sort of deal is being cooked up. Nonetheless, Netanyahu does not have the power to create another Arab state out of the old Palestine Mandate territory. There are already 2 (Jordan and Gaza) and both of them are failing states. Israeli public opinion won’t allow a 3rd. The 420,000 settlers in Area C of the West Bank are not going to move either and Abbas won’t agree to give up the settlement block territories. He controls nothing – not even Ramallah – has nothing to offer Israel, and will die soon.

          • Makaden

            “Putin may be backing away from Assad because he is now a major liability and a delusional psychopath.”

            And just NOW he is realizing this? Putin’s suddenly had a moral awakening on Assad? That doesn’t pass the smell test.

            As for your next paragraph, it would be Likud who would be first to know if the PA was about to collapse, since it is Israel propping them up. And they are not interested in a “moderating” Hamas filling the gap. Plus, Israel seems really, genuinely surprised at the Russian announcement.

            Something…is happening that is pretty big.

          • D4x

            The USA will not allow Jordan to fail. I think the USA is serious about helping Jordan’s Syria refugee problem by creating safe zone in Daraa, Syria. Also, Jordan has significant oil shale reserves, but has stumbled getting anything developed. This SecState and SecEnergy, from Texas, can help.

            I joined in with Makaden’s response to your first comment.

          • Ellen

            Israel is also trying to desperately prop up Jordan, not only with the usual intelligence help against extremists but even economically, by employing Jordanian workers in Eilat and elsewhere. Nonetheless, there is a limit to what external supporters can do. The Hashemites have ruled Jordan since the 1920’s when it was separated from the rest of the Mandate and given to them as a present by the British. In all that time, they have never managed to build a real economy. They live off of handouts and by exporting white collar workers to the Gulf oil states. With 9.5 million people now (including refugees and foreign workers) this method is no longer going to work. Sooner or later, there will be a revolt in Amman of the unemployed, Islamists, disgruntled Palestinians, etc and the monarchy will fall. I don’t think anyone can prop them up forever. As with other non-oil Arab states, no one with money wants to invest it in Jordan.

          • D4x

            ‘Forever’ is not the time frame – four years is very do-able, to support the Hashemite monarchy, which still has legitimacy in the muslim world. We can agree to disagree on that.

          • Ellen

            I agree with you about the Hashemites. Also, they are very civilized by the standards of Arab rulers. That is why they are still being kept in their palace in Amman. Otherwise, the democracy peddlers would have done regime change on Jordan in order to let the Palestinian majority vote in their favorite ruler. As it is, if King Abdullah had any courage or risk-taking genes, he would claim to be the representative of the Palestinians himself (his wife is one and his heirs are half, therefore). He could then pocket all that foreign aid and sympathy, instead of letting it go to the corrupt, incompetent kleptocracy in Ramallah.

        • D4x

          Yes, fair to say, “The game is afoot!” In a very recent interview, FM Lavrov noted that Iran and Hezbollah are in Syria at Assad’s invitation. I believe getting Iran and Hezbollah out of the Syrian Golan is Israel’s #1 priority, besides enforcing UNSC Res 1701, confirmed by UN Amb Danny Danon’s announcement that Israel will seek a seat on the UNSC in 2018. Putin/Russia will always consider/protect the one million former Soviet citizens now living in Israel.

          However, the timing of this Jerusalem announcement came the day after POTUS meet with King Abdullah II, and they were supposed to discuss Israel-Palestine ‘peace’. SecState Tillerson will meet FM Lavrov in Moscow next week, at Lavrov’s invitation – I had assumed Syria at the top of that agenda.

          We have to await the reaction to Russia on Jerusalem from the GOP Senators who see Putin as Mr. KGB.

  • D4x

    Russia excels at diplomatic chess. Perhaps now they get a seat at the Two-State Table…perhaps this is Russia’s planned to fighting all terrorism, …one wonders how Russia will now be seen by the Arab League, Iran and Hezbollah. So many questions…can wait until next week, in Jerusalem…

  • Kneave Riggall

    Good for Israel!

  • D4x

    Israel is NOT a big news story today (nice change), but some more context, from RT, and TheTower: “…“The concrete parameters of a solution for the entire range of issues regarding the status of Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, should be coordinated at the direct talks between the parties involved,” Moscow’s statement said on Thursday. “Russia will continue to provide assistance to the achievement of Israeli-Palestinian agreements. We will focus on ensuring free access to Jerusalem’s holy places for all believers.”

    “…“Russia’s ambassador to Israel will meet with Foreign Ministry officials in the coming days to discuss Moscow’s decision and its
    ramifications,” the [Jerusalem] Post reported. While Russia means for this declaration to be effective immediately, “there is currently no intention … of moving Russia’s embassy to Jerusalem.” …”

    • Isaiah601

      I read the JP article. Israeli government seems to be genuinely surprised by the TIMING of the announcement; I don’t know if they knew it was coming or if that was a surprise as well. Something is happening, that’s for sure.

      • D4x

        We shall never know who knew what & when, especially adding in the Tomahawk strike on Syria’s air base last night.

    • Makaden

      I don’t think this is context. I think it is cover, it is reassurances, a bandaid. It’s a big deal, Russia knows how big of a deal it was going to be, and I can only wonder what is happening behind the scenes to bring this on. Putin seems to be letting go of Assad and buying good will with Israel.

      • D4x

        Admit I was searching for a better word than ‘context’. Israel has had good relations with Putin/Russia since Avigdor Lieberman served as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2009 to 2012, and again from 2013 to 2015.

        A key moment was in 2012, when Israel significantly acknowledged Russia’s loss in the Holocaust (which POTUS Trump was criticized for doing in a subtle manner in 2017):

        “Putin arrives in Israel, inaugurates WWII memorial: Russian president greeted at airport by Foreign Minister Lieberman, inaugurates Netanya memorial for Soviet soldiers who fought Nazis during WWII”
        Boaz Fyler|Published: 25.06.12 , 14:01

        “…[Putin] added, “I’ve seen a lot of monuments around the world but this will be a permanent reminder of the heroism of an entire generation that fought and sacrificed itself for all mankind. The Holocaust is history’s blackest page and such acts cannot be tolerated. The Red Army put an end to those atrocities.”

        Putin further noted, “Here in the Holy Land, this beautiful country, we know that peace can be fragile and we must ensure that the Nazis’ doctrine of crime stay behind.”

        The Russian president thanked Israel’s prime minister, president and the monument’s creators.

        “This monument is a beacon of hope,” Peres said, “Russia who so greatly helped win the war is the same Russia that can help peace in the Middle East.” …”,7340,L-4247063,00.html

        Russia is a different place since the Eastern Church became, again, part of Russian national identity. Russian tourists to Israel are only outnumbered by Americans.

        • Makaden

          Good additional context, thanks.

          Interestingly, tourism from Russia to Israel was down to 294,000 last year, down nearly 30% from the previous two years. Russia had more tourists than third place France by only 3,000 tourists.

  • Isaiah601

    Really great insight on this board. I’ve learned a lot.
    Isaiah 60:1
    Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

    • Ellen

      That is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. “Kumi Ori” in Hebrew. Thanks for bringing that ray of light into this nice discussion.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service