Author: By AJAY GOYAL / The Russia Journal
The refusal by the chairman of Russia's upper house of parliament, Sergei Mironov, to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during his recent trip to the Middle East was the most public display yet of a shift in Russian policy toward Israel and the Jewish community at home and abroad.
Whether the shift is tactical and temporary, or strategic and long-lasting, and how big a departure it marks from the past is being widely debated. The snub, however, had the paradoxical effect of making people at each extreme of the policy spectrum agree with each other.
Many in the Russian media ridiculed Mironov for the apparent gaffe. To me it was another in a series of messages President Vladimir Putin has been sending to the Jewish lobby in United States. The overall message is that under Putin, Russia has broken away from the anti-Semitic policies that American Jews associate with the Soviet Union, tsarism and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Tactically, Putin is making a shrewd move aimed at many targets at the same time.
Begin with Arafat: He is widely recognized as having lost his grip on Palestinian national sentiment and on the evolution of the conflict with Israel. The intifada is now in the hands of militant groups such as Hamas that are engaged in a killing game with Ariel Sharon. Putin would not want anything to do with that, and siding with Arafat does not offer any tactical advantages.
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