Since 1948, Russia has been an advocate of the two-state solution and has been pushing both Arabs and Israelis to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in accordance with this plan, leaving Jerusalem for the final talks. Recently, Russia has started to exert more pressure on Israel to cease building new settlements in the occupied West Bank. This has been clear from the many statements issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry expressing deep concern at the deteriorating situation when it comes to Israel’s settlement projects.
Why Moscow is pushing for the two-state solution and for the procrastination of the status of Jerusalem can be explained by Russian fears that a lack of progress in the peace process could result in unilateral steps that would undermine the prospects of resolving the conflict. In other words, Russia is concerned about the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.
If the superpowers of the US and Russia do not have the sincere will to reach a solution, it would lead either to seriously harming the Palestinian cause or to the spreading of extremism in the region. Russia seeks to achieve a win-win deal for both Israelis and Palestinians rather than a win for one party at the expense of the other.
The announcements by the US of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving its embassy there were deemed by Russia as a blow to all peace attempts, driving the whole region toward a direct clash.
With the increased tension between Iran and Israel in Syria and the failure so far to eradicate terrorism from Syria and Iraq, as well as other countries in the region, there is great potential for further conflict if the stalemate in the peace process continues and if new settlements continue to be built. The Israeli government has, in the past few months, approved plans to build 1,100 new units in 20 settlements in the West Bank. This not only undermines the whole peace process, but it is also a blatant attempt to wipe out Palestinian identity.
Why has the Russian position toward Israel changed in the past few years? It is a result of the shifting Israeli perspective on the peace process, which was supposed to solve the conflict and declare an independent Palestinian state many years ago.
Russia alone cannot solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — it needs regional cooperation and support from the EU and of course, the US.
When the region’s leaders make official visits to Moscow, their meetings with President Vladimir Putin touch on bilateral relations. However, Putin also insists on discussing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which, if it remains unresolved, will lead to further skirmishes throughout the Middle East.
During his trip to Moscow this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was told by Putin that the issue of Jerusalem should only be determined in final status talks and that the two-state solution is the best way to avoid any spillover to neighboring countries.
As Russia adheres to the UN resolutions on the principles of a peaceful settlement, including the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, Moscow seeks the leeway to bring both sides together in a conference similar to that in Sochi for Syria. It is hoped these direct negotiations would help the two parties reach appropriate agreements.
But clearly, Russia alone cannot solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — it needs regional cooperation and support from the EU and of course, the US. Only concerted efforts can bring peace to the region and solve the complicated conflict in a manner that leads to co-existence in two states where both peoples respect each other and cooperate for the betterment of their nations.
- Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme