President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has lengthy solid himself as a good friend of Israel and the Jewish individuals.
He helped set up visa-free journey between Russia and Israel in 2008, presided over the development of a sprawling Moscow Jewish Museum in 2012 and, side by side with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2020, unveiled a memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany’s siege of Leningrad.
However amid the worst attack on Israel in 50 years, the excessive regard that Mr. Putin has proven for Israel prior to now seems remarkably absent. Greater than three days after the beginning of the incursion by Hamas, there was no message of condolence from the Kremlin, though Mr. Putin beforehand revealed such notes of sympathy within the wake of terrorist assaults in Israel.
And he has not but known as Mr. Netanyahu, though he spoke with Israeli leaders at the least 11 occasions in 2022 and developed an in depth relationship with Mr. Netanyahu over greater than a decade of conferences and cellphone calls. As an alternative, Mr. Putin’s spokesman on Monday struck a neutral stance, saying that Russia was “extraordinarily involved” and calling for a direct halt to the preventing.
On Russian state tv and within the pro-Kremlin blogosphere, commentators reacted to the assault on Israel with thinly veiled glee, casting it as a revelation of Western weak point and because the begin of a conflict that would sap Western help for Ukraine.
The stark shift sheds gentle on one consequence of Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine: the sharp decline within the relationship between Moscow and Israel over the previous yr and a half, one which some Jewish leaders worry additionally presages an increase in antisemitism inside Russia.
Additionally it is the newest battle in a area the place Moscow has performed a significant position however the place it’s now unwilling or unable to wield a lot affect. That performed out dramatically final month within the Caucasus area, the place Russia didn’t even appear to attempt to cease Azerbaijan from seizing management of the Armenian-populated breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh — a stinging defeat for Armenia, Russia’s navy ally.
Whereas Moscow’s help for the Palestinian trigger dates to Soviet occasions, Mr. Putin balanced that by forging sturdy ties to Israel. So the Kremlin’s arms-length stance towards Israel in current days “is unquestionably a manifestation of a deteriorating relationship,” stated Pinchas Goldschmidt, who served because the chief rabbi of Moscow for almost 30 years till being pressured to flee the nation final yr as a result of, he stated, he refused to support the war in Ukraine.
Rabbi Goldschmidt spoke by cellphone from Israel, the place he had simply attended the funeral of an Israeli soldier slain within the preventing on Saturday; he stated the deceased, Yuval Ben Yaakov, was the son of one other former Moscow rabbi. He added that many Jewish leaders had as soon as seen Mr. Putin as an ally in protecting the reminiscence of World Battle II alive, however when the Russian president began falsely equating Ukraine’s present authorities to Nazi Germany to justify an invasion, “that’s when the Jews stated: ‘We’re not a part of it.’”
There are clear geopolitical causes for Mr. Putin’s shift on Israel. Within the Center East, the place Russia has lengthy tried to play a kingmaker position and construct relations with all main powers, Moscow now finds itself beholden to Iran — Israel’s bitter enemy — as certainly one of its major arms suppliers for the conflict in Ukraine.
And in contrast to in years previous, when Mr. Putin sought methods to cooperate with Western international locations, he now seems to see little incentive to attempt to work with them to dealer an finish to the preventing in Israel as Russian forces are being pummeled by Western weaponry in Ukraine.
However there are additionally, maybe, extra private causes. Mr. Putin seems stung that Israel and Jewish leaders around the globe aren’t backing his false narrative about Ukraine’s being run by “Nazis.” In current months, he has repeatedly lashed out at President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine for heading a Nazi authorities regardless of being Jewish. In June, Mr. Putin claimed that his “many Jewish buddies” had informed him that Mr. Zelensky was “a shame to the Jewish individuals.”
There have been indicators since final yr that the connection was fraying. Russia cracked down on the Jewish Agency, an Israeli nonprofit that was a mainstay of Jewish life in Russia and helped Russian Jews transfer to Israel. In June, Russia’s Overseas Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to say that Israel’s envoy to Ukraine was complicit in “whitewashing” Nazi crimes. (Some Ukrainian independence fighters fought alongside Nazi Germany towards the Soviet Union in World Battle II, the inspiration of Mr. Putin’s spurious claims that Ukraine’s present leaders are Nazis.)
“Nobody within the Kremlin is dashing to point out sympathy to the victims” of Hamas’s incursion into Israel, stated Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Heart. “This additionally reveals you the emotional perspective — ‘grievance’ is the proper phrase.”
He added that the Russian propagandists casting the incursion as a boon for Russia could have some extent. The Kremlin “passively is a beneficiary for now, at the least,” of the preventing, Mr. Gabuev stated — if solely as a result of senior officers in Washington could have much less time to give attention to how greatest to help Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s grievance — even Schadenfreude — has performed out on Russian state tv in current days. Many commentators taunted the tens of 1000’s of Russian Jews who had fled to Israel after Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — in some instances to keep away from being drafted into the Russian Military — and who now discovered themselves in the midst of one other conflict.
“Let’s watch him go into Gaza now with a weapon in hand,” one discuss present visitor stated of a Russian tech tycoon, Arkady Volozh, who had relocated to Israel and spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine.
Others on tv crowed in regards to the weekend’s navy and intelligence failures by Israel and its Western allies, whereas predicting that the developments may play into Russia’s fingers by distracting the West from supporting Ukraine.
“The picture of the invincible Israeli fortress has simply collapsed,” stated Olga Skabeyeva, a talk-show host on the Rossiya-1 channel. Referring to the warships that america is now transferring nearer to Israel, she added, “Are U.S. plane carriers subsequent?”
For all of Mr. Putin’s obvious frustration that Israel has not endorsed his rationale for invasion, Mr. Netanyahu’s authorities has been cautious in its help for Ukraine, drawing the ire of Kyiv, as properly. Consultants say that Israel has been eager to not overly antagonize Russia given Moscow’s shut ties to Iran, to restrict the blowback towards Jews nonetheless in Russia and to preserve the communications between the Israeli and Russian militaries working in Syria that permit their forces to keep away from coming into battle there.
Israel has not participated in Western sanctions towards Russia, and has refused to supply weapons to Ukraine as a result of, Mr. Netanyahu has stated, they might find yourself in Iranian fingers. In June, Ukraine’s Overseas Ministry claimed that the Israeli authorities was ignoring the struggling of Ukrainian Jews whereas choosing “a path of shut cooperation with the Russian Federation.”
However in current days, Mr. Zelensky has solid these criticisms apart and embraced Israel’s trigger. In a speech to NATO on Monday, he stated that Russia and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, represented “the identical evil.”
“The one distinction is that there’s a terrorist group that attacked Israel, and here’s a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky stated.
Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.