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Israel's political manoeuvres during the Ukrainian crisis - Daily News Egypt

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Israel’s political manoeuvres during the Ukrainian crisis

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called horrific images coming from Ukraine and accused Russia de facto of running a war against civilians. In response, Professor Sergei Ivanov, Head of the Department of Diplomacy and Consular Service, the Diplomatic Academy of the Foreign Ministry of Russia, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta why Tel-Aviv got to a biased and unbalanced assessment …

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called horrific images coming from Ukraine and accused Russia de facto of running a war against civilians. In response, Professor Sergei Ivanov, Head of the Department of Diplomacy and Consular Service, the Diplomatic Academy of the Foreign Ministry of Russia, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta why Tel-Aviv got to a biased and unbalanced assessment of developments in Ukraine. He explained that Tel Aviv was conducting itself the regular special operations against its neighbours in the interests of national security. According to Ivanov, what is going on in and around Ukraine falls under the notice of the world community and mass media in many countries today. Giving in to the trends, some political analysts and journalists have turned into “experts” on Ukraine and Russia-Ukraine relations. They are joined by the politicians from the Western countries and their allies from other regions of the world who strive to get their poll numbers up amid the growing anti-Russia hysteria by putting often their wild and hasty sound bites. They put them ahead of the settlement of the situation in Ukraine never thinking of them being counter-productive. A vivid example here is the recent statement by the Foreign Minister of Israel Yair Lapid who said that there was “no justification” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Words are not birds, as they say, and solid politicians, especially of such level as the head of the foreign service, have no right to waste them and should be conscious of the impacts of what they say, including on the relationship with Russia. This is particularly unfortunate that such unconsidered judgments come from the Foreign Minister of Israel, – our major regional partner tied with Russia by longstanding multifaceted relations, and not from representatives of the West (the Russians have long been strongly immune to them). They also contest the credibility of Israel as a country that aspires to be a mediator in crisis settlement around Ukraine, – the fact supported by the intense efforts of Prime Minister Bennett in this direction (his phone calls to President Putin, his visit to Moscow, his contacts with all the key actors). Unfortunately, this all happens with all the accumulated positive experience of interaction with Russia repeatedly assisting in solving Israel’s rather sensitive issues. As far as in 2018, for example, Moscow arranged the withdrawal of pro-Iranian militarized formations from the area of Golan Heights to a distance safe for Israel. In 2019, the Russian side discovered and transferred to Israel the remnants of an Israeli military man killed in 1982 during the First Lebanon War. In 2020, President Vladimir Putin granted amnesty to an Israeli citizen Naama Issachaar who was sentenced to 7.5 years in Russia for drug trafficking. There were other sensitive scenes when Russia somehow met Israel halfway. It is not up to Israel and still less up to the United States that rattle the sabre to give Russia a lesson where there should be room for negotiations. With its first-hand knowledge of the threat of terrorism, our country expresses its sympathy and unconditional solidarity as regards the terrorist attacks that regrettably take place in Israel once in a while. The Russian society was outraged at the travelling wave of terrorist attacks in Israel later this March. The Foreign Ministry of Russia extended its condolences to the victims’ families. In light of this, it is even weirder to hear such anti-Russian statements from the Israeli Foreign Minister. To hear them from the country that is ultimately responsible for the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict that awaits its peaceful settlement while remaining one of the oldest regional problems, and continues to affect negatively the lives and fates of the millions of people and the international security. Unsettled, this conflict plays the game of the terrorist international, fuels the extremist attitudes, and serves as a permanent source of tensions inside and outside the Middle East. Let us briefly refresh the “clinical record” to highlight as well the roles of the main players. There is always more than one to be blamed in any conflict. The picture of settlement in the Middle East is complex, multi-dimensional, and tricky. However, it is hard to deny that one of the major obstacles on the way to a two-state solution (the creation of two States in the territory of the former British Mandatory Palestine: the State of Israel – within the 1967 boundaries of the six-day war, and the State of Palestine – on the West Bank and Gaza) to the Palestinian problem is that Israel neglects the right of the Palestinian people to their sovereign State. The Israelis do not show any intent to resolve the conflict in accordance with a generally recognized international legal base and pursue the policy of creating irreversible realities “on the ground”, first and foremost, via Israeli settlements and corresponding infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian territories. In the context of a fundamental transformation of the world order, pursuing an opportunistic approach by playing along with the West’s Russophobic line is a very short-sighted strategy. For decades, Israel has been continuously expanding its military and administrative presence in areas where, according to UN resolutions and international law, a Palestine state was supposed to be established. These policies have resulted in more than 630 thousand Jewish settlers living in the West Bank today. An extensive network of roads, hospitals, checkpoints, and settlements guarded by the Israeli military, some of which have been erected on the site of the destroyed buildings of the Arab population, have been built for them. In the meantime, the Palestinian territories are becoming a “patchwork quilt» consisting of scattered enclaves. Even in the opinion of Western human rights organizations, which take an openly biased position on most issues and pursue the Anglo-Saxon agenda, there is a clear analogy between Israel’s actions and the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa until 1994. More than 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank are forced to live in scattered islands of land, virtually isolated from each other by the system of transport highways. The Israeli authorities pursue a deliberate policy of confiscating Palestinian land and regularly carry out demolitions of Palestinian structures. The situation around the Gaza Strip deserves special mention. For historical, political, and demographic reasons, Gaza is a unique example of its kind. 80% of the population living in one of the most densely populated areas of the world, where about 2 million people live on 362 square kilometres, did not end up there voluntarily. These are refugees who have been expelled from their original places of residence. The vast majority of the Strip’s inhabitants are, in fact, driven into reservations. They are prisoners of an enormous open-air prison, subject for years to an Israeli “airtight» sea, air and almost total land blockade. The line pursued by the Israelis to control this enclave has occasionally led to violent clashes with Gazans. The elderly, disabled persons, women, and children are the first to suffer from the disproportionate use of force by Israel. Thus, as a result of Operation Cast Lead, carried out by Israel in Gaza in 2009, more than 1,300 people were killed on the Palestinian side (including about 300 children) and at least 5,000 people were wounded. As for the Israeli side, there were 13 killed (10 soldiers and 3 civilians) and about 150 wounded. The ratio of the killed is 1 to 100. Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 took the lives of 161 Palestinians and injured more than 1,200. About 1,800 targets were hit with significant damage to civilian infrastructure in Gaza. On the Israeli side, five people were killed and more than 90 were wounded. The bloodiest was the 50-day conflict around Gaza in the summer of 2014. On the Palestinian side, 2,251 people were killed, including 299 women and 551 children. Over 11,000 Gazans were wounded and more than 1,500 were left disabled. Powerful information resources are used to conceal the real state of affairs and unbiased information about the processes going on around the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Western political consultants, led by American ones, resort to various methods of media manipulation in order to form false perceptions and stereotypes. In reality, in sum, things are as follows: as noted in numerous documents prepared by UN experts and the Middle East think tanks, due to the fifteen-year Israeli blockade, the humanitarian situation of Gazans is on the verge of collapse, with supplies of food, fuel and medicine reduced to the level of physical survival. Operation Cast Lead carried out by Israel in Gaza in 2009 resulted in more than 1,300 deaths on the Palestinian side (including about 300 children). Under occupation, the Palestinian people have suffered for decades from discriminatory economic policies pursued by Israel. The Israeli authorities use a whole range of methods to maintain full control over the Palestinian territories, their material, raw materials, information and human resources. The economic system of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is fully incorporated into the Israeli system, and the shekel is the main currency in their lands. A large part of the Palestinian budget, against the backdrop of declining international donor aid, comes from customs revenues from imports into Palestine across Israeli borders. This is done by the Israelis, who have full control over seaports, land logistics and border checkpoints. The slightest protest by ordinary Palestinians, as well as diplomatic demarches by their representatives on the international scene, regularly result in the cutting off of these already scarce resources, which are rightfully due. This results in months of suspension of wage payments and further impoverishment and radicalization of the Palestinian population. Let us take a look at the approach to the Palestinian issue adopted by the current Israeli leadership. Since the establishment of the coalition in June 2021, the Prime Minister and other cabinet members have repeatedly expressed unwillingness to engage in negotiations with Palestine regarding its final status and called such negotiations pointless. At the same time, it has been stressed that the establishment of an independent contiguous State of Palestine is not even on the table. This policy aimed at maintaining the status quo, namely the longest occupation in post-war history, is tacitly condoned by Israel’s principal overseas partner and patron, the U.S. Any attempts to revive the peace process and re-launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, including in the framework of the Middle East Quartet, are blocked by Washington under various pretexts in favour of Tel Aviv. Israel has not made peace with Lebanon either, pending issues include the course of the land and maritime boundaries, the allocation of water resources, and the return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon to their homes. After Israel’s bloody large-scale offensive war against Lebanon in 2006, Israeli aviation has continued to regularly enter Lebanese airspace, flagrantly violating its sovereignty and UNSC resolution 1701. In particular, the Report of the United Nations Secretary-General of 11 March 2022 states that from 26 October 2021 to 18 February 2022, United Nations peacekeepers recorded 131 Lebanese airspace violations by Israeli planes totalling 197 hours and 45 minutes in overflight time. Since the Arab-Israeli wars, Israel has not yet made peace with Syria. Since 1967, it has occupied a part of the Syrian territory – the Golan Heights. According to UNSC resolution 497 (1981), the law adopted by Israel’s Knesset in December 1981 on imposing Israeli jurisdiction in the Golan Heights cannot be considered legitimate. The law, as well as the decision made by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019 to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, is a clear and blatant violation of the norms of international law. Moreover, in addition to previous disagreements with Damascus, over the last few years, Israel has been attacking targets in the Syrian Arab Republic under the pretext of protecting its national security. Such actions gravely violate international law and Syrian sovereignty and could further exacerbate confrontation in the region. They have caused numerous deaths of Syrian civilians, including children, not to mention the reduction of the military capacity of SAR forces, and, as a consequence, the effectiveness of their efforts to eliminate the presence of terrorists on the Syrian territory. Attacks by Israeli Air Forces present a direct threat to the lives of Russian servicemen who assist legitimate Syrian authorities in the fight against terrorism. The air strike on a Syrian target in Latakia on 17 September 2018 caused the death of 15 Russian officers. Israel is wrong to believe that the incident has been forgotten. However, even after this tragedy, Israeli pilots on missions have repeatedly used civilian aircraft in Syrian and Libyan airspace as a shield, putting them in great danger. We get the same old explanation: attacks are carried out to eliminate emerging threats to the national security of Israel. Essentially, we can see that several countries, such as Israel, and of course its main ally, the U.S., have arrogated themselves the right to some kind of immunity in respect of international legal norms. For many years, they have ignored binding UNSC resolutions and other decisions of the United Nations interpreted the basic principles of international law and multi-lateral agreements to their liking and, in the case of Washington, have condoned this kind of behaviour of their allies. Here, it is worth recalling that today, sanctions are the main foreign policy instrument of the West. In defiance of the will of the international community, Tel Aviv has been and still is able to avoid the application against it of various restrictions that could be introduced for the systematic violation of the will of the majority of the world’s countries. Without total support by the U.S., this situation would be unlikely. Getting back to Yair Lapid’s statement that “war is not the way to resolve conflicts” in the context of the latest events around Ukraine – why would not the Israeli leadership consider starting talks with the Palestinians immediately to implement the decision of the United Nations to create two states? Would then the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, who has said that “the Russian attack on Ukraine is a serious violation of the international order”, for academic purposes take a second look at the foundations of such order? Would he also recall that it is underpinned by the Charter and the decisions of the United Nations, above all the Security Council? Would it not be useful for Israel to reflect with a dose of healthy self-scrutiny on its own behaviour before it takes the liberty to make statements concerning the way Russia stands up for its legitimate security interests? It is regrettable that irresponsible emotional statements of Israeli politicians have been made at a time when a sensible, balanced and objective approach is most needed. It is not up to Israel, let alone the sabre-rattling United States, to teach Russia at the negotiating table. Nor are they in a position to lecture us on international law or rebuke us for using force to protect our national security. For Israel, it would be useful to recall too that Washington’s logic – quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi – has failed the test of time. One has to ask Israeli officials: are they not confused by the fact that their main ally – the US, along with Ukraine, which the Israeli Foreign Minister defends so eagerly, vote unilaterally against the annually adopted Resolution of the UN General Assembly on combatting glorification of Nazism? Would Mr Lapid like to make a statement to that effect? Perhaps, Foreign Minister would also like to comment on the following. On 30th March, the international community was presented with evidence that Kyiv’s regime had used synagogues as collection and transfer points for weapons and Nazi fighters to take part in hostilities. To that end, they did not scruple to use buses with “children” signs. This information was provided by a member of the Jewish community of Uman. We expect Yair Lapid to comment on this matter, and also possibly reconsider his approach and recognize that his statements are inappropriate. For Israel to voice support of Kyiv is blasphemy altogether (and it is hardly possible to interpret Mr Lapid’s words otherwise) – a regime that has openly embarked on a path of Nazification of all the aspects of state and public life. This is a betrayal of the memory of the many Jewish victims of Banderite executioners at Babi Yar and in other places in Ukraine, Poland and Belarus. We hope that Tel-Aviv will change its rhetoric in this respect and make an objective assessment of Kyiv’s Neo-Nazi practices. At a time when the world order is undergoing a dramatic transformation, it is a short-sighted tactic to display opportunism playing along with the western Russophobe policies. After all, it may compromise the relationship with one of the global centres of power and development of the 21 century – a country that continues to play a pivotal role in global affairs, including international security across the globe and, specifically, in the Middle East. This article was published first in Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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