Limor Simhony Philpott

Netanyahu has finally realised Russia is no friend of Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin (Credit: Getty images)

When Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a 50-minute phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin last weekend, it was only the second time the two leaders had spoken since the war against Hamas started on 7 October. The two leaders were once close allies, but no longer: relations between Putin and Netanyahu have now fractured, perhaps beyond repair.

In a statement released immediately after the call, Netanyahu criticised Russia’s close alliance with Iran. The Kremlin blamed Israel for ‘the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza’ – repeating a position expressed by Putin in the past, including in a meeting with his ally and staunch Israel critic, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, back in October.

If Russia has gone cold on Israel, it appears to be warming to Hamas

The breakdown of Putin and Netanyahu’s relationship is no surprise. Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, has announced that, because Israel is an ‘occupying state’, it didn’t have the right to defend itself against Hamas – an organisation which, of course, killed, raped and tortured some 1,200 Israelis and abducted dozens of women and children. Nebenzya also blamed Israel for committing ‘crimes against humanity’ in Gaza. What’s more, Russia – which started an illegal war in which tens of thousands of people have died – has supported ceasefire resolutions in the United Nations security council and general assembly.

If Russia has gone cold on Israel, it appears to be warming to Hamas. A Hamas delegation has been warmly welcomed in Moscow and Putin is rumoured to have promised them military aid. Hamas, which receives much of its funding, weapons and training from Iran and Qatar, is also still not recognised by Russia as a terror organisation.

Before the war in Ukraine, Israel and Russia enjoyed positive strategic relations. The bond and trust between Putin and Netanyahu had allowed Israel to operate against Hezbollah and Iranian targets within Syria and Iran, actions that necessitated quiet consent from Russia.

Relations between the two countries have, however, deteriorated since Israel decided to stand by Ukraine.

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