Libmonster ID: SE-426

On October 12-13, 2006, Moscow hosted the international conference "Russia-Israel: 15 Years of Restoring Diplomatic Relations", organized by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences with the assistance of the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Moscow Society of Friends of the University of Jerusalem provided great assistance in its preparation and implementation. The conference was attended by Russian scientists, representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, specialists from the universities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and representatives of the Embassy of the State of Israel in Moscow. The program of meetings included discussion of a wide range of issues related to the history and current state of Russian-Israeli relations:

History of the development of bilateral relations between the USSR and the Jewish community in Palestine (1927-1948): party and socio-cultural relations.

Soviet-Israeli relations in the period 1948-1967 (the creation of the State of Israel and the role of the Soviet Union; political, economic, and cultural ties).

Contacts between the USSR and Israel in the period 1967-1991

Bilateral relations at the present stage-1991-2006 (the process of restoring relations; interstate and public relations).

The conference was opened by R. B. Rybakov, Director of the Institute of Information Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Honorary guests were: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia A.V. Saltanov, Ambassador of the State of Israel to Russia A. Milman, Vice-Rector of MGIMO(U) Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation V. P. Vorobyov, President of Tel Aviv University, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States I. Rabinovich.

Since the conference program did not include discussion of any topics on which the current positions of Russia and Israel differ, it was possible to assume that there would be no serious clash of opinions and that the discussion would focus on secondary, purely theoretical issues. This, however, did not happen.

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The tone was set by I. D. Zvyagelskaya (Institute of International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences), who drew attention to the unique nature of the rupture of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Israel in 1967. The uniqueness, according to the speaker, was that the USSR made the possibility of restoring normal diplomatic relations dependent on changes in Israel's policy towards Arab states that were not even part of the United States. in one military-political bloc with the Soviet Union. This is an unprecedented case in world practice, and it is necessary to think about what were the real reasons for the gradual formation of the Soviet leadership's negative attitude towards Israel in the 1950s and 1960s, and, more specifically, the reasons for the Soviet side's severance of diplomatic relations in 1967.

According to I. D. Zvyagelskaya, the first widely accepted explanation is that the Soviet leadership at one time allegedly pinned hopes on the creation of a socialist-oriented state in Palestine, and then was disappointed with the socio-political structure that developed in Israel in reality. But it is well known that the Soviet leadership generally had a bad attitude towards socialists, and doubly bad if these forces had a nationalist tinge, like the left-wing Zionists in Israel. Therefore, there is no need to talk about any disappointment.

The second well-known thesis is that our relations have been damaged by Israel's close cooperation with the United States. However, an analysis of the available documentary evidence shows that the Soviet leadership was well aware of Israel's dependence on the United States and never expected that in the cold War, Israel would be closer to the Soviet Union. Another question is that the USSR was afraid of Israel's potential involvement in anti-Soviet alliances in the Middle East, but the latter never participated in them.

The third explanation is the factor of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. But no matter how disgusting the manifestations of state anti-Semitism were-especially under Stalin-this in itself could not lead to a break in diplomatic relations. This, of course, caused tension between the two countries, but no more, because it is well known that diplomatic relations do not depend on how a particular government treats a certain ethnic group within its state.

The real reason for the growing tension in bilateral relations, according to I. D. Zvyagelskaya, was the Soviet leadership's dissatisfaction with Israel's demand to allow the emigration of Soviet Jews, as well as its claims to establish direct contacts with Jewish communities in the Soviet Union. Thus, according to the speaker, Soviet-Israeli relations turned from a foreign policy factor into a domestic one, which was much more serious. If we talk specifically about the moment when diplomatic relations broke down, then the attitude of the Soviet leadership to the defeat of Egypt and Syria in the 1967 war played a role as its own.

According to G. K. Prozorova (Moscow), the Soviet Union still attached great importance to the gradual reorientation of Israeli foreign policy towards the United States, despite the fact that Israel initially declared the principle of neutrality. However, the feeling of "disappointed hopes" was not confined to the Soviet side. The Israeli leadership initially counted on a large influx of Jews from the USSR and was disappointed by Moscow's harshly negative position on this issue. In general, according to the speaker, the statement that participants in regional conflicts during the Cold War were only hostages of the global political game of superpowers often belittles the significance of the opposite trend - the influence of the countries of the region themselves on the policy of the USSR and the United States. The Israeli Government, in particular, underestimated the impact of its own policy towards the USSR on the development of bilateral relations.

A. M. Khazanov (Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences) gave a speech on the first break and the first restoration of Soviet-Israeli relations in 1953. He noted that in the light of Stalin's anti-Semitic policy since the early 1950s, the end of Soviet-Israeli relations was inevitable. The speaker cited numerous evidences of preparations for mass deportation and genocide against Soviet Jews in 1953, noting that the anti-Semitic line in domestic politics was intertwined with discontent with the pro-American orientation of Israel.

The next block of speeches was devoted to secret diplomatic contacts between Soviet and Israeli representatives after the official breakup of relations in 1967. N. A. Semenchenko (Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences) in her report "Soviet-Israeli contacts in the period 1967 - 1991" emphasized the important role of Israeli Communists and socialists in this process.

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(Israel), a former member of the Knesset and Minister of Labor, and a former Israeli ambassador to China, shared her memories of her participation in the secret Soviet-Israeli negotiations during this period.

Of great interest were reports whose authors were directly involved in the process of restoring Russian-Israeli diplomatic relations and their further development in the early 1990s. Presentations on this topic were made by T. A. Karasova, Head of the Israel Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who worked in the first staff of the Russian Embassy in Israel, T. V. Nosenko (Russian Academy of Sciences), who participated in the work of the Russian Embassy in Israel in 1993-1998, Professor S. Hoffman of the University of Jerusalem, and A. E. Lokshin (Russian Academy of Sciences).

The speakers noted that diplomatic relations have been restored for a long time, borders have been opened, and economic and cultural ties are developing, although not so fast. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister A.V. Saltanov noted that the trade turnover between Russia and Israel is currently approaching $ 2 billion. A. Milman stressed that military-technical cooperation is developing, joint projects are being developed in the field of aircraft construction, and cooperation between the special services of the two countries in the fight against terrorism.

However, much of this success was achieved in the first years after the restoration of diplomatic relations. And here the logical question arises: what's next? It is unlikely that Russian-Israeli relations can remain static for long. There are at least three factors that should contribute to their development. First, the two countries are too closely linked in cultural and historical terms not to respond to each other's problems, as T. A. Karasova noted. Secondly, Russia has assumed certain obligations to participate in the Middle East settlement process. Third, Israeli society traditionally evaluates the entire sphere of foreign policy in the context of national security, and any step taken by Russia in this context immediately receives a wide, sometimes even hypertrophied response in Israel.

The potential of economic cooperation is currently being used rather poorly: This was shown in their speeches by A. V. Fedorchenko, D. A. Maryasis, and E. Y. Usova (all-IB RAS). As for the political sphere, after the second Lebanese-Israeli war, the mutual cooling became very noticeable.

G. I. Mirsky (IMEMO RAS) considered this issue in his report. Russia, in his opinion, currently does not have real opportunities to influence the positions of participants. G. I. Mirsky believes that there is a chance to resolve even such complex nodes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the problem of Jerusalem, the issue of refugees and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. But given the current distrust between the parties, and especially in a situation where Hamas is in power in the PA, progress in a peaceful settlement of the conflict is impossible. Moreover, the situation is such that the previous concepts of ensuring Israel's security are becoming irrelevant. Indeed, Israel has managed to create an army capable of defeating the regular troops of neighboring countries in the event of a new war. But the Arab-Israeli confrontation takes on a different character: the second war in Lebanon showed that the threat to Israel's security today is not posed by states (especially since the probability of military clashes with them is quite small), but by powerful paramilitary organizations with a radical religious ideology. Having in their ranks "religious fanatics" (in the words of G. I. After receiving missiles from Iran that can reach Israel from hundreds of kilometers away from the border, Hezbollah poses a much greater threat to Israel's security than the poorly motivated armies of Arab countries in the wars of the 1950s and 1970s. And it is completely unclear how Russia, as a conspirator in the Middle East settlement, can now change the situation for the better.

I. Rabinovich, President of Tel Aviv University, argued that recognizing the futility of further negotiations with the Palestinians and refusing to continue them would only worsen the situation. According to him, we can count on at least concluding a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas. At the same time, he acknowledged that Israeli concessions are often perceived by the Palestinian side as a sign of weakness and only lead to new demands.

The following two speakers, L. A. Fridman (Moscow) and Professor L. Epstein of the University of Jerusalem, did not add optimism either.

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In his report "Russia, Israel and the Arab Countries in the World Economic Space", L. A. Friedman described Israel's position in the economic sphere. Over the past five years, the average annual growth rate of per capita income in Israel was only 1.9%, while in Iran-5.8%, in Egypt - 3.7%, in Syria and Saudi Arabia - 4%. Economic growth in Israel was one of the lowest, about the same as in Western Europe. But Western European countries can afford it, and Israel, given its environment, certainly can't. If we compare absolute economic indicators, then the GDP of Israel now amounts to approximately 175 billion dollars, Iran-545, Egypt-330, Saudi Arabia-363 billion dollars. One might argue that Israel's gap to neighboring countries in absolute per capita income is still large. But after all, Russia (the USSR) has always lagged behind the United States in this indicator by about three times, which did not prevent us from creating a powerful nuclear missile system and achieving military parity with the United States. Similarly, Iran now has sufficient economic power to develop various types of weapons of mass destruction. If over the next five years the ratio between the key economic indicators of Israel and the Arab countries remains the same as in recent years, then the current situation is dangerous for Israel, fraught with the transition of the "point of no return".

Neither G. I. Mirsky nor L. A. Friedman mentioned the fact that anti-Russian sentiment is growing in Israel in the light of the "Iranian threat" and Russian-Iranian cooperation in the nuclear field. The members of the Israeli delegation were also diplomatically silent about this. Even A. Epstein, who noted this trend in his articles (he considered the position of the Israeli media largely unfounded), this time preferred to make a report on a different topic, but no less painful. In effect, he blamed the Hebrew-speaking Israeli scientific establishment for its lack of interest in real, modern Russia.

The discussion of Jewish emigration at the conference sparked a lively debate.

Irina Masyukova (Moscow) noted that the severance of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Israel in 1967 not only did not stop, but even increased the flow of emigration. Already in 1968, Yu. V. Andropov and A. A. Gromyko recommended allowing emigration (approximately 1.5 thousand people per year), so as not to give rise to the corresponding accusations against the USSR that were spreading in the West.

G. G. Kosach (Moscow) raised the issue of emigration in a rather unusual aspect. He cited data showing that in the 1920s the young Soviet government and the Comintern looked in vain for possible agents of their policy in the Middle East. In the end, although the Comintern formally condemned Zionism, it was decided to use members of the Russian organization of the left-wing Zionist party Poalei-Zion (Workers of Zion) to "revolutionize" Palestine. Many of them were not only allowed to travel to Palestine, but were even given every possible assistance in doing so.

Arguing with G. G. Kosach, B. Morozov (Tel Aviv University) referred to documentary evidence from the recently published archives of the CPSU. In particular, he quoted the phrase of F. E. Dzerzhinsky that it is necessary to allow Jewish emigration, because in this way it is possible to expel from the country "the most rabid part" of the Jewish community, nationalists and religious fanatics. Thus, the reasons that led the Soviet government to allow Jewish emigration on a small scale until 1934 appeared in a completely different light. Speaking about the 1960s and later, the speaker (a former "refusenik") expressed the opinion that the Soviet authorities ' unwillingness to allow Jewish emigration was by no means a form of discrimination against Jews. In his opinion, Jews were in this sense a privileged ethnic group: in Soviet times, no group other than Jews, Germans, Greeks, and Armenians was allowed to emigrate; however, the proportion of Jews who received permission to leave was significantly higher compared to the other listed nationalities.

E. E. Stein (Moscow) devoted her speech to the peculiarities of the attitude of Russian Jews towards Israel in modern conditions, when there is a possibility of entry and exit, and the Jewish communities of Russia are actively in contact with Israeli public organizations. This was the only speech that touched upon the topic of self-identification of today's Russian Jews. According to opinion polls, the report noted, only a few percent of Russian Jews identify with the community. The result was the loss of not only common Jewish solidarity, but also solidarity within Russia itself.-

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Russian Jewry. The destruction of the traditional way of life and religion, the separation from the Jewish communities of the diaspora led to the devaluation or loss of the former symbols of Jewish identity. The overwhelming majority of Russian Jews consider themselves exclusively Russians. Jews in Russia are an ethnic minority, which, according to the speaker, is not even a diaspora group. According to E. E. Stein, the necessary features of the diaspora are: connection with the ethnic and national hearth (real or mythologized homeland) and community organization. Thus, in this case, it is not necessary to talk about the intertwining of religious, national and ethnic identity. In the complete absence of a Jewish national identity and a weakly expressed religious and communal identity, self-identification with an ethnic group plays a major role.

Despite the prevalence of this point of view among a number of reputable Russian researchers, it caused controversy among the conference participants.

Unfortunately, the extreme intensity and tight schedule of this conference left almost no time for a detailed discussion of the issues raised. It is hoped that holding such meetings on the basis of the Institute of Information Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences will become a tradition, and all that is left unsaid this time will be the subject of discussion at the next conference.


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