Where Does Russia Stand on the Israel-Hamas War?

October 20, 2023
Hanna Notte

The following is an excerpt from Foreign Policy.

Russia, so the argument went, was deliberately and directly fueling conflict in the Holy Land to broaden its battlefield with the West. Others drew direct comparisons between Hamas’s vicious onslaught and Russia’s war against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky argued that one was “a terrorist organization that attacked Israel” and the other “a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine.” (Many Palestinians have taken issue with this characterization.)

It is true that Moscow has long maintained close relations with Hamas, an Islamist group that controls Gaza and enjoys Iranian backing. The militant movement won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and took over Gaza during the ensuing Palestinian civil war. Hamas has both political and military wings, and some Western states, such as Australia and New Zealand, have only declared the military wing—the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades—to be a terrorist organization. Others, such as the United States, have not made this distinction.

The Kremlin, for its part, has never declared either wing of Hamas to be a terrorist group. Rather, eager to carve out a niche in the Middle East peace process, Russian diplomats have tried to unify different Palestinian factions, including Hamas, into a single political force in order to restart the peace process and promote a two-state solution.

Hamas delegations have frequented Moscow, meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who holds the Middle Eastern file at the foreign ministry. Russia consulted with Palestinian factions in Doha, Qatar, and Ramallah, in the West Bank, and hosted talks between them at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, which I used to frequent as a visiting scholar. Those talks showed that Hamas is far from a Russian puppet: In one round of negotiations, held in Moscow in February 2019, the group’s leadership refused to sign a final statement brokered by the Russian hosts.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy.

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