Russian speaker dreams about the fame of a "peacemaker," or is it bloody PR in the Middle East?

Sergey Mironov, the speaker of the Federation Council, set for his first visit abroad on Monday. All of a sudden, Mironov arrived in Israel three months after he was elected. This happened all of a sudden because the visit was kept secret until the Russian plane landed in Tel Aviv. The chairman of the inter-parliamentary association Israel-Russia, Yury Stern, received the Russian guest at the airport. Sergey Mironov was invited to Israel by the speaker of the Israeli parliament, Avraham Burg.

The journalists did not know what the point of keeping the visit a secret was. Maybe Vladimir Putin asked Mironov to bring new Russian initiatives for putting an end to the conflict between Palestine and Israel? As was found out after his first statement, the speaker did not bring any peacemaking suggestions. So what is the point of the visit? For those who do not know, Sergey Mironov is the third highest-ranking official the Russian government after President Putin and Premier Kasyanov. Domestic and foreign media always watch his official and unofficial visits. If he arrived to “become more familiar with the position of Israel,” as he said himself, then why did he even bother traveling? He could simply have asked his press-service to prepare the adequate analytical report about the situation in the Middle East, but, as they say, “it’s better to see, than to hear,” so this is what Sergey Mironov did.

On Monday, Sergey Mironov had a meeting with Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon, Housing and Construction Minister Natan Sharansky, as well as with speaker of the Israeli parliament Avraham Burg. Having become familiar with Israel’s position, Sergey Mironov released a sensational statement, about which will be sure to regret quite a bit in the future.

Mironov said that he decided to cancel his meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, which was to take place on Tuesday: “I am not ready to show this traditional token of appreciation, since I have arrived in Israel on the invitation of the Israeli parliament,” Mironov said. He added that he considered it necessary for himself to become acquainted with Israel’s position. In order to do this, the speaker of Russia’s Federation Council is going to have meetings with other Israeli officials tomorrow.

I am sorry, but how can you give any estimation of the situation in the Middle East if you have only the Israeli point of view at your disposal? There is a reverse side to the coin, so it is really surprising that a man with such a narrow outlook is taking such a responsible state position.

However, Mr. Mironov made a correction and said that the cancellation of the meeting did not at all mean that Russia was going to ignore Arafat. Mironov said that Arafat was a person who embodied the Palestinians’ right for self-determination, “he is the leader with whom one has to negotiate.” At the same time, the Russian speaker also set out his hope that he would have an opportunity to meet with Palestine’s representatives and learn more about their position in detail. Probably, this is what is going to happen, but one should not forget that the situation in the Middle East is changing daily.

Mironov also said that, “The events, that we are currently witnessing in Chechnya, the events that the Afghan people had to face in the form of the Taliban regime, and the acts of terrorism in Israel have the same roots in my opinion, financial roots first and foremost.” I would like to say here that the acts of terrorism that happen on Israel’s territory cannot be compared with the actions of the Israeli army. There were 17 Palestinians killed and 50 wounded in one night as a result of a "special" operation conducted by the Israeli army. Why didn’t Mironov say anything about that? Maybe he did not want to offend those who invited him? So if you publicly ignore a meeting with Arafat, provoking a mass of rumors pertaining to Russia’s position in the conflict, then you could also go on with saying that Arafat was a terrorist like Khattab or Basayev.

Well, you must spoil before you spin. Sergey Mironov should have visited Europe instead of Israel, for his own promotion; he certainly did not win the fame of a peacemaker in Israel. The speaker of the Federation Council is an independent figure, of course, but only within the framework of the Federation Council. Russia’s foreign political course is the president’s prerogative and no one else’s. If Sergey Mironov did not coordinate his initiatives with the president, we cannot envy him, but if everything is alright, then we are sorry for old Arafat.

Should Sergey Mironov agree to have a meeting with the Palestinian leader, he would become the first politician in the world to meet Arafat after Israel lifted up the travel ban on him. Mironov will also have to deal with the infuriated deputies of the Russian parliament after he comes back home. The decision of the speaker of the Federation Council is contradictory to the actions of the majority of the Russian deputies. On October 13th, the Russian parliament addressed to the Israeli leadership, urging them to stop the military actions. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR faction in the parliament) was trying to make the deputies pass the statement “About the aggravation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” in which they tried to blame Israel for the armed conflicts between Israel and Palestine on the West Bank and in Gaza Strip.

On October 19th, a group of the Russian deputies conducted a meeting with Yasser Arafat. Deputy Viktor Cherepkov advised that Arafat was saying all the time, “We are in strong need of Russia’s help.” Two weeks before that, on October 5th, Ariel Sharon, who was on the official visit to Russia, refused to have a meeting with the speaker of the Russian parliament, Gennady Seleznyov. Finally, the Russian parliamentary delegation expressed its wish to help Arafat in December of last year. Arafat was blocked in Ramallah at that time, and the Russian delegation was trying to help him to go to Bethlehem via the Israeli posts for Christmas celebrations. This idea did not come to be and only led to the problems for the Russian deputies, who experienced difficulties in travelling.

Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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