Israeli officials displeased Hamas leaders visit to Russia

Israeli officials lashed out Friday at Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he betrayed Israel when he invited leaders of the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas to Moscow , and warning of a strain in relations between the countries. Putin's invitation Thursday to Hamas, which he said he did not view as a terror organization, represented a break in the European and U.S. position not to deal with the group, which won last month's Palestinian elections, until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel 's right to exist.

Israel 's initial response was measured, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev reminding Russia it was a member of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators that declared Hamas an unfit negotiating partner unless it changed its ways.

On Friday, officials were far more critical. Cabinet Minister Meir Sheetrit of the centrist Kadima Party told The Associated Press that Putin's remarks were an "international scandal" that amounted to "stabbing Israel in the back." "(Putin), I believe, would feel very bad if Israel would invite the Chechen organizations of terror into Israel and give them legitimacy," Sheetrit said, referring to separatists rebels who have been fighting Russia for 12 years in the mainly Muslim southern Russian republic of Chechnya .

Putin's invitation to Hamas also tainted its attempts at being a mediator in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Sheetrit said. " Russia should be removed from any negotiations in the Middle East ," he said. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday that his country was not happy with Hamas' ideology, but the group was elected in a democratic poll.

"Hamas is in power, this is a fact," he told reporters in Taormina , Sicily , where NATO defense ministers were meeting. "Sometime in the future, many leading sates will start supporting Hamas and have some contacts." Alexander Kalugin, a Russian Mideast envoy, said that during the planned visit, Moscow will urge Hamas to acknowledge Israel 's right to exist, Russia 's Interfax news agency reported.

Those intentions did not satisfy Israeli politicians, who said the invitation gave legitimacy to Hamas, which killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings in recent years.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, a hardline party representing Russian immigrants, said Israel should recall its ambassador from Moscow for consultations.

"This is an attempt to appease the Muslim world at our expense," he told Israel Radio.

Dovish politician Yossi Beilin told Israel Radio that Israel should summon Russia 's ambassador to Israel for clarifications and to convey Israel 's displeasure over Putin's endorsement of Hamas, but said Israel should stop short of initiating a diplomatic rift with Russia .

Israel has a complex history with Russia , and its earlier incarnation as the Soviet Union . The Soviet empire supported Israel in its early years, but relations soon deteriorated, and eventually collapsed, as Israel increasingly allied itself with the United States . Moscow cut ties with Israel in 1967 in the context of a Mideast war and strongly backed the Arab states. In many of its wars with its Arab neighbors, Israel found itself facing Soviet-trained pilots flying Soviet MiG fighter jets.

Moscow also barred Jews from leaving, jailing many who demanded the right to emigrate to Israel . As the Soviet Union was collapsing in the early 1990s, the two nations restored ties, and relations warmed as Moscow loosened its emigration restrictions, prompting more than a million Russian speakers to immigrate here, reports the AP.


Subscribe to Pravda.Ru Telegram channel, Facebook, RSS!

Author`s name Editorial Team