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Medvedev visits Palestinian lands amid cancelled Israeli talks

Published time: January 18, 2011 05:43
Edited time: January 18, 2011 15:43

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev is set to visit the Palestinian territories on a two-day trip to the Middle East, where he will meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

­Medvedev will make his first visit to Israel, but despite having to step on to Israeli soil to get to Abbas, he will not be holding talks with any top Israeli officials – because the Jewish state's foreign ministry has gone on strike.

It insists the strike was not planned to coincide with Medvedev's visit and was simply a call for higher wages. But some say there is an ulterior motive.

"The strike is a little bit selective because the visit of the Russian president was cancelled while the visit of the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, wasn't,” said Boris Morozov, the Head of the Tel Aviv-based Institute of Russian and Eastern European Studies. “And in a way, I think, this is the result of the inner opposition of the workers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the minister, Mr. Liberman."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is pushing for closer ties with former Soviet Union states while his department is pushing for him to be ousted. Born in the USSR, in present-day Moldova, the former bouncer’s views are right wing – and he has been accused on more than one occasion of putting his foot in it.

"Liberman makes it very clear that his ideology has to do with the smell of rotten fascism. It is very clear that it has to do with racist ideas. The ideas of Lieberman put us 100 years back," contemporary art curator, Dorit Levit Harten, believes.

The issue of the Foreign Ministry strike is not a justification, says Mustafa Bargouti, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative Party.

“The Prime Minister of Israel could have arranged the visit. And the security apparatus is so big in Israel that this would not be a problem,” he told RT. “The issue here is about the feeling of false superiority in Israel, the feeling of arrogance and impunity to international law. That makes Israel behave in such a manner with a leader of one of the most important countries in the world.”

“And I think there is another reason, a political one, where the Israeli government knows that its policies are counterproductive,” Mustafa Bargouti continued. “They’ve alienated many European countries, they’re alienating most countries in the world, they’ve alienated Latin American countries, and I’m sure they’ve alienated many people even inside the United States. So, that also applies to Russia, which is seeking to have a more active role within the Quartet.”

But it is not the first time Israeli internal politics have soured the visits of foreign delegations.

Last year, just before US Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel, the Israeli prime minister announced the start of settlement building. That decision was a blow to the Obama administration’s peacekeeping effort and cooled down US-Israel relations. Many believe that such political embarrassments are weakening Israel's position in the international arena.

“Public opinion of Israel is definitely, unfortunately, isolating itself from most of those countries, most of the public opinion of those countries," said Aryeh Levin, the first Israeli ambassador to the Russian Federation.

The Israeli foreign ministry is the first to admit Medvedev’s cancelled visit is a missed opportunity.

"Practically, we expected many papers to be signed between the parties, we discussed cooperation in many areas and the need to delay the visit is a very severe decision we did not like at all," Pinhas Avivi, a political director at the Israeli foreign ministry explained to RT.

But whatever the reason, as Medvedev meets with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah, Israel will be sitting on the sidelines and watching.

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