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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What if Israel just doesn't show up?

The JPost is reporting this morning that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had 'nasty' meetings here last Thursday with Foreign Minister Tzipi Feigele Livni (pictured) and President Shimon Peres, and had only slightly better meetings with Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert. Despite that, and despite a 'cool' reception to the idea by both Israel and the United States, Moscow plans to go ahead with a 'peace conference' gang rape of Israel in June, due to its fear of Iran's increasing influence in the region.
According to the government sources, Moscow viewed Hamas's takeover of Gaza as benefiting Iran, Hizbullah's strong position in Lebanon as strengthening Iran, and the situation in Iraq as playing into Iran's hands. As a result, Moscow wants to dramatically increase its role and influence in the region.

"They are afraid of Iran's strides here," one official said.

According to the source, a nuclear cooperation deal Russia signed with Egypt during Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's visit to Russia on Tuesday was also aimed at gaining influence in the region. Moscow, according to Israeli officials, saw arms sales and nuclear technology as a way to once again assert its presence and gain leverage in the Middle East, as it had during the period of the Soviet Union.

Israel was noncommittal to the conference idea throughout Lavrov's visit, with Olmert refraining from publicly coming out either for or against the proposal. The sense in Jerusalem is that if what is planned is an international conference along the lines of the Annapolis Conference, where other Arab countries would reaffirm support for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement, then that is something Israel could go along with, although not with great enthusiasm.

If, however, the idea was to hold Israeli-Palestinian bilateral negotiations in Moscow, that is something Jerusalem was not keen on. In general, Israel believes that an international conference is unnecessary at a time when bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are taking place.

Nevertheless, while Israel has adopted a decidedly unenthusiastic tone toward Russia's increasing assertiveness in the region, Russia's interest in blocking Iran's march in the Middle East is very compatible with Israel's overall interests. For this reason, there may be an inclination in Jerusalem to go ahead with the international conference, even though it is wary of the idea.

"For the Russians, we are just a small pawn in the greater game," one government source said. "They are going to go ahead with the conference no matter what we say, knowing we will have no choice in the end but to go along."

Lavrov, speaking to the press last Thursday night after meeting with Livni, said the agenda of the Moscow conference "will be very simple. There were the accords adopted in Annapolis; everybody supported them. Let us reaffirm that support and stimulate the parties toward their effective realization."
Obviously, there's no need to nothing to be accomplished by 'reaffirming support' for Annapolis. Obviously, also, Israel should not be paying the price for Moscow's declining influence in the region, especially since Moscow brought that on themselves by providing Iran with fissile nuclear material.

And if you think Israel is 'cool' to the idea of dealing with the 'Palestinians' in Moscow, look at what they said about the Syrians.
Regarding reports that Lavrov told Syrian President Bashar Assad that the Golan Heights would be an issue at the proposed Moscow meeting, officials in Jerusalem said the Russians knew Israel was opposed to a "photo-opportunity" with the Syrians, and that if the Syrians were indeed interested in negotiations, they knew what they had to do.

Israel has made clear that Syria would have to stop supporting Hizbullah and Hamas, kick the terrorist organizations out of Damascus, and pull away from its cozy embrace with Iran for there to be a possible peace deal.

"The Russians understand our position on this," one government official said.

The official said Lavrov's "testiness" while here may have had something to do with his own uncertainty over whether he would continue on as Russia's foreign minister when Dmitry Medvedev takes over from President Vladimir Putin in May.
This would be ever more ridiculous. Why should Israel try to help Russia pry Syria away from Iran to serve Russia's interests, when it is largely Russia's fault that Iran has so much influence over Syria in the first place? Even more so, why should Israel pay the price for Lavrov being fired as foreign minister?

But what if they held a conference in Moscow and Israel just didn't show up? While I think that would be a great idea, unless the US is willing to back us, we would be under incredible pressure to show up there. While the US might back us, that backing would likely come with a price tag that we do not want to and should not pay. Of course, if our Prime Minister were the likes of Yitzchak Shamir, we could just show up and not concede anything. Unfortunately, our Prime Minister is Ehud K. Olmert.

But we should still point out at every opportunity that Moscow has been the main cause of Iran's increased influence in the region. And we should still concede nothing.

Oh yes, and if we do end up going to Moscow, the government should at least insist that the Israelis and the Saudis will enter the conference room by the same door.


At 8:43 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Asking this Israeli government to show some spine in defense of national interests may be asking too much. Its one thing for Ehud Olmert to go to Washington. Its another thing for him to go to Moscow.

Annapolis #2 is not likely to fare any better than the original one last year.


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