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Russia and the Palestinian national reconciliation

December 24, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Palestinians wave the national flag during a demonstration to support the reconciliation in Gaza City on 3 December 2017 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Russia has once again intervened in the Palestinian national reconciliation, this time by inviting rivalling Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, and possibly other Palestinian factions to Moscow at the beginning of next year.

This invitation was extended after conducting important meetings with Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki a few days ago to discuss the stalled peace process as well as the internal Palestinian affairs and ending the division. This Russian attempt is considered another intervention in the issue because about two years ago, Moscow hosted the Palestinian factions to discuss this issue and how to make a breakthrough in order to overcome the obstacles hindering all efforts to achieve the restoration of national Palestinian unit. Then, the meeting was aiming to back the national Palestinian reconciliations that occurred in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut, following the Palestinian National Council (PNC) Preparatory Committee. This encouraged Moscow to bet on the possibility of reaching a breakthrough in this regard, but we now know that the Council did not succeeded and Moscow failed to remove the obstacles hindering reconciliation.

This time, as Moscow hosts the Palestinian factions to discuss the reconciliation, we believe that there is a serious opportunity for a Russian role in this matter, after Russia emerged as a major player in the region. This could possibly be a guarantee of succeeding in reaching a consensus that leads to ending the state of division.

Russia has gained considerable credibility through its political and security experience in the Arab region by not abandoning its allies and standing by them.

However, in hosting these factions, Russia is fully aware of its ability to open a loophole in this thorny issue. It is undoubtedly aware of Egypt’s continuous and intensive efforts to make a breakthrough in this issue without any tangible progress, despite Egypt’s direct influence on the divided parties. Moscow is also aware, more than others, that this issue is prone to Arab and regional penetration beyond the Egyptian role.
However, Russia is looking for a major and influential role that solidifies its position in the region and it does not want this issue not to be on its agenda. It wants to remind the world that it is able to influence all difficult matters in the region, to regain its role in it, either by continuously regaining its influence there by calling for a peace conference for the Palestinian-Israeli issue in the Russian capital, which has been repeatedly rejected by the Netanyahu government, or through a new restoration of a new effort in the issue of the national Palestinian reconciliation.

Although Israel protested that Moscow hosted the head of the Hamas political bureau, the protest could strengthen Russia’s role in reminding the world of its importance. This is especially since the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to the Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Isaac Herzog, when he met him in the Russian capital a few days ago, that Israel itself is engaged in negotiations with Hamas, making agreements, and allowing the entry of millions of dollars for the movement from Qatar.

If we take into account the nature of Russian-Israeli relations in light of the fallout over the downing of a Russian plane in the Syrian airspace as a result of the Israeli air strikes against the Syrian air force, Russia’s vote in the Security Council against the American proposal to denounce Hamas and Israel’s response by supporting a US resolution denouncing the Russian occupation of Crimea, then we can say that Russia’s involvement in the reconciliation issue is an embodiment of the Russian influential role in the region. Of course we must not forget the Russian interests associated with restoring warmth to the relations with Israel. However, such relations require strong commitment to the important issues in the region, either regarding the political settlement or a breakthrough in the reconciliation issue, while emphasising Russia’s inability to make a major breakthrough in any of them.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ayham on 24 December 2018.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.