May 1, 2023

Moscow and Jerusalem: A Troubled 75 Year Relationship

By Robert O. Freedman, Johns Hopkins University


Since the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, it has
had, at best, a mixed relationship with the Soviet Union and, since the
collapse of the USSR in 1991, with the Russian Federation. Initially,
under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, the relationship was good as the
Soviet Union provided diplomatic support and arms (via
Czechoslovakia) to help Israel win its war of independence. Soon
afterwards, however, an increasingly paranoid Stalin cracked down on
the USSR’s Jewish community and Soviet-Israeli relations were
seriously damaged. Stalin’s successors, Khrushchev and Brezhnev chose
to back the Arabs in their conflict with Israel and, consequently, Israel’s
relations with the USSR were strained, with Brezhnev breaking
diplomatic relations with Israel during the June 1967 Six Day War, and
Soviet and Israeli pilots clashed over Egypt in 1970. When Gorbachev
took power in 1985, however, there was a marked improvement in
Soviet-Israeli relations. Diplomatic relations were restored, first at the
Consular level in 1988 and then fully in 1991. Perhaps even more
important, as far as Israel’s security was concerned, Gorbachev allowed
hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel, and also


cautioned both the PLO and Israel that they had to settle their conflict
with Israel politically, and not by war.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, there was a brief
honeymoon between the Russian Federation (hereafter Russia) and
Israel in the first few years of Yeltsin’s rule as Russia’s President.
However, as Yeltsin began to take a harder line with the United States
over such issues as Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, and
appointed Yevgeny Primakov as Russia’s Foreign Minister in 1995,
Moscow again took a pro-Arab position in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Nonetheless a strong bilateral relationship began to develop between
Russia and Israel, with trade, cultural ties, and even military production
agreements . This pattern of regional differences but strong bilateral
ties would continue under Vladimir Putin.

The advent of Putin to Russia’s Presidency in 2000 marked
another phase of Russian-Israeli relations. Bilateral ties between Israel
and Russia were perhaps the best ever, with trade growing to over $3
billion dollars, extensive cultural ties, and the continued permission for
Russian Jews to emigrate to Israel. On the other hand, Russia
increasingly backed Israel’s regional enemies, particularly Syria and Iran
with diplomatic support and sophisticated arms. Then, when Russia


intervened militarily in Syria in 2015 to save the Assad regime, Putin
and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked out a modus
vivendi under which Israel remained free to bomb Iranian and Hizbollah
positions in Syria as it had been doing since Iran had tried to establish
bases there after the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, in return for
Israel not siding with the enemies of Bashar Assad who were trying to
overthrow his regime. Israel’s freedom of action in Syria, along with
Jerusalem’s desire to continue the free flow of Jewish emigration from
Russia to Israel, helps explain the relatively neutral position taken by
Israel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

FROM 1948 TO 2023

In looking at the thrust of relations between Moscow and
Jerusalem since 1948, there are two dominant themes. The first is
security as Israel, since the death of Stalin in 1953 has been concerned
about Moscow’s aid, both diplomatic and military, to Israel’s regional
enemies. The second major issue has been the emigration first of Soviet
and then Russian Jews to Israel. Given the fact that the ethos of Israel


is to gather Jews from around the world and bring them to Israel, the
Russian Jewish community has always been important to Israeli leaders
as a key source of immigrants. Consequently, getting the Jews out of
first the Soviet Union and then Russia has been an important priority
for Israeli leaders even if such advocacy contributed to the worsening
of relations between Moscow and Jerusalem as Soviet leaders—at
least until Gorbachev— saw the Jews who wanted to leave the USSR as
traitors to the “workers paradise”. (1)


It came as a surprise to many in the world community when, in the
UN debates on Palestine in 1947, the Soviet Union, hitherto a major
opponent of Zionism, came out in support of partitioning the British
Mandate over Palestine, into Jewish and Arab states, thereby
recognizing Zionism and Jewish nationalism. Indeed, Soviet UN
Representative Andrei Gromyko’s UN speech in favor of partition, was
in the words of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, “One of
the very best Zionist speeches he had ever heard”. ( 2 ) Since the days
of Lenin, the Bolsheviks (later the Communists) had been opposed to
Zionism because they saw it as a nationalist policy to divert Russian
Jewish workers from the “class struggle” (3 ) What then caused the


change in Soviet policy? During World War Two, the Yishuv (Jewish
Community in Palestine) through its leaders, the Jewish Agency, had
made numerous attempts to win over the Soviet Union as both the
USSR and world Jewry were fighting fascism, and the Yishuv donated
both shiploads of oranges and an ambulance to the USSR(4 ) From
Stalin’s point of view, however, the USSR was more concerned with
the evolution of British policy in the Middle East which was seeking to
build a bloc of pro-British Arab states near the southern periphery of
the USSR. Given the advances of military technology during World War

Two, especially the development of long-range bombers like the US B-
29, Stalin reasoned that the Arab states could provide Britain or the US

bases for an attack on the USSR, and particularly its Azerbaizhani
oilfields. In the immediate post World War Two period, the only group
actively fighting the British were the Jews of Palestine and this naturally
drew Stalin’s interest. In a meeting between a representative of the
Jewish Agency and a Soviet diplomat in the newly opened Soviet
embassy in Syria in 1947, the Jewish Agency representative was
reportedly told (as noted in the memorandum for the record which he
wrote after the meeting) that Moscow would support the Jews of
Palestine in establishing a state if they refused to provide military bases
for the US and Britain. ( 5 )This, apparently, was the deal that
precipitated Soviet support for the nascent State of Israel in the 1947-
48 period. For its part, despite its need for monetary aid from the US,
Israel sought to maintain a policy of neutrality in the Cold war between
the US and USSR until North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, when
Israel took a more pro-Western position. Israel’s policy of neutrality
during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 thus has a precedent.


Soviet aid to Israel came in two parts. The
first was diplomatic as it backed Israel in the United Nations following
the invasion of the newly-born Jewish State by surrounding Arab
countries. The second was military assistance. Prior to the Communist
coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, Ben-Gurion had made a deal
to acquire arms from Czechoslovakia. Following the coup, the Czech
Communist leader, Klement Gottwald asked Stalin if he should go
ahead with the arms deal to Israel, and Stalin said it was OK. The arms
that flowed to Israel from Czechoslovakia, especially warplanes and
machine guns (6 ),helped tip the balance and enabled Israel to defeat
the invading Arab armies.

Alas for Israel, this era of good relations with the USSR did not last .
The visit of Israel’s foreign Minister, Golda Meir, to Moscow for the
Rosh Hashanah holiday in the Fall of 1948 brought forth a crowd of
an estimated 50,000 enthusiastic Soviet Jews to greet her at the
central Moscow synagogue. The increasingly paranoid Stalin began to
worry about the loyalty of Russian Jews who, after all, like Trotsky,
Zinoviev and Kamenev, had been his biggest opponents as he was
trying to consolidate power in the 1920’s. (7 ) Before long, a major
wave of anti-Semitism was underway in the USSR, with the murder of
Jewish intellectuals and the so-called “Doctors Plot” where a group of
Jewish doctors were accused of plotting to kill Soviet Government
officials.(8 ) The growth of anti-Semitism in Russia had a highly
negative effect on Soviet-Israeli relations and diplomatic relations were
broken in


February 1953 after an explosion at the Soviet Embassy in Tel Aviv . This
would not be the last time that the issue of Soviet/ Russian Jews was to
affect the relations between Moscow and Jerusalem.


Following the death of Stalin in March 1953, there was a general
thaw in Soviet Foreign Policy and diplomatic relations were restored
with Israel. Unfortunately for Israel, once Khrushchev had consolidated
power in 1955, he moved to back the Arab states in their ongoing
conflict with Israel. A major aspect of this policy was a September 1955
arms deal with Egypt(there was a subsequent arms deal with Syria) in
which Egypt received bombers and tanks, among other weapons which
posed a direct threat to Israel.(9) That was one of the reasons that
Israel joined with Britain and France in a tripartite attack on Egypt in
October 1956 that became known as the Suez war . While Khrushchev
was busy suppressing the Hungarian Revolution at the time of the Suez
war, he nonetheless issued threats against Israel as well as against
Britain and France in an obvious attempt to curry favor in the Arab
world. Following the war Khrushchev continued to back the Arab
states, both diplomatically and militarily, against Israel, until he was
overthrown in 1964. Interestingly enough, however, while security
issues were the main problem in Soviet-Israeli relations under
Khrushchev, the issue of the exodus of Soviet Jews was also an issue in
the relationship as Israeli diplomats kept pressing the Soviet leadership
to allow Soviet Jews, who wanted to do so, to emigrate to Israel. (10 )


C. THE BREZHNEV ERA: 1964-1982

When Brezhnev came to power in 1964, he not only continued the
pro-Arab policy and anti-Israel policy of his predecessor but intensified
it. Still, like Khrushchev, he never joined the Arab states in calling for
Israel’s destruction even though he was instrumental in advocating the
anti-Zionism declaration at the United Nations in 1975. Unlike
Khrushchev, however, he had to deal with a growing international
movement in support of Soviet Jewry . At the same time he sought to
benefit from the fact that the US, by 1966, was bogged down in
Vietnam and Moscow’s other chief Rival, China, was bogged down in its
Cultural Revolution. Consequently, Brezhnev saw an opportunity to

increase Soviet influence in the Middle East by calling for “Anti-
Imperialist Arab Unity”(Shorthand for unity on an anti-Israel, anti-US

basis). When a left wing Ba’athist regime seized power in Syria in 1966,
Moscow embraced it with both economic and military aid, but the
Syrian regime had a very thin base of support and seemed in danger of
collapsing. This was especially the case because it was supporting a
guerrilla war against Israel resulting in increasingly severe Israeli
retaliation, and the Ba’athist regime faced the humiliation of the
buzzing of Damascus by Israeli aircraft. At this point Moscow falsely


told Egyptian President Gamal Nasser, whose country was linked to
Syria by a defensive treaty that had been hailed by Moscow as an
example of the “anti-Imperialist Arab unity” that it had been seeking,
that Israel was planning a major attack on Syria. Nasser then mobilized

his forces, kicked the UNEF out of its positions along the Israeli-
Egyptian border and at the Straits of Tiran, and formed a tripartite

alliance of Egypt-Syria and Jordan—three Arab countries bordering
Israel. The end result was a preemptive Israeli attack on Egypt,
followed by attacks on Jordan and Syria in what became known as the
Six Day War. While Moscow fulminated against Israel during the war, it
did nothing substantive to help its Arab clients, Egypt and Syria, other
than breaking diplomatic relations with Israel. Israel’s victory in the Six
Day War reinvigorated the Soviet Jewry movement as more Soviet Jews
expressed the desire to emigrate to Israel. The movement accelerated
the following year with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia which
convinced my Soviet Jews there was no hope for reform in the USSR.
Thus a “push-pull” situation was created as Soviet Jews were attracted
to Israel by its victory in the Six Day War and repelled by the Soviet

government which after the 1967 war had undertaken a major anti-
Zionist (and anti-Semitic) campaign, equating Zionism with West

German “revanchism” and US ‘imperialism” (11 ). Meanwhile, as the
Egyptian-Israeli war of attrition along the Suez Canal heated up
between 1968 and 1970, Moscow was pulled into the conflict. A
desperate Nasser, who was losing the war, called in the USSR for
military support in the form of fighter pilots and advanced surface to air
missiles. Brezhnev agreed, but demanded in return control over five


Egyptian air force bases which greatly improved the Soviet Union’s
military position in the Middle East. However, Brezhnev’s intervention

came with dangers for the USSR as Israeli pilots shot down five Soviet-
piloted planes and the escalating conflict only ended when the US

worked out a cease-fire agreement in August 1970. (12 )

Despite the ceasefire, which enabled The USSR and Egypt to move
its surface to air missile system close to the canal unimpeded by Israeli
attacks, a clear strategic gain both for Moscow and Egypt; by 1971 the
geopolitical situation was not moving in Moscow’s favor. China and the
United States, which had been near mortal enemies, began to come
together against the USSR. That became increasingly evident with US
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s visit to China in 1971 and US
President Nixon’s visit there the following year. Under these
circumstances, and because he wanted trade benefits and a strategic
arms agreement with the United States, Brezhnev evidently felt
compelled to make a gesture to the United States and that involved
letting thousands of Soviet Jews emigrate to Israel. This however, had a
negative effect on the Arab world, and especially Egypt, which
complained that the emigrating Jews, many with scientific and technical
backgrounds, would help Israel’s military-industrial complex.(13)

Meanwhile, in July 1972, Brezhnev suffered a major blow to
Moscow’s Middle East position when Nasser’s successor as Egypt’s
President, Anwar Sadat, expelled 15,000 Soviet advisors and reimposed


Egyptian control on the five Egyptian airbases which Nasser had given
over to the USSR in 1970. As a response to these events Brezhnev
imposed a “head tax” on emigrating Soviet Jews, only to face a

whirlwind of opposition in the US Congress which, through the Jackson-
Vanik amendment to the Soviet-US trade agreement, tied the trade

benefits which Moscow wanted to the exodus of Soviet Jews. The trade
bill ultimately collapsed when the Stevenson Amendment was added to
it, limiting US investments in Russia. (14)
Meanwhile, Sadat was planning to regain the Sinai Peninsula lost to
Israel in the Six Day War, and he forged an alliance with the new Syrian
leader, Hafiz Assad, who sought to regain the Golan Heights, also lost
to Israel in the Six Day War . Sadat and Assad launched their attack in
October 1973, in what became known as the Yom Kippur War, and both
Egypt and Syria were quickly resupplied by Brezhnev who hoped to
regain the Middle East position the USSR had lost when Sadat had
expelled the Soviet advisers in 1972. After suffering initial losses, Israel
took the offensive both on the Golan Heights and in the Sinai, crossed
the Suez Canal and threatened Cairo. Brezhnev warned Kissinger that it
would intervene in the war if Israel was not stopped.(15) Kissinger had
his own reasons for stopping the Israelis , who were highly dependent
on US military supplies, so he pressured the Israelis to stop their
offensive and, in so doing, endeared himself to Sadat. The end result
was that the US replaced the USSR as Egypt’s main diplomatic
supporter and military supplier, and a peace agreement was negotiated
between Egypt and Israel in 1979 under the auspices of US President
Jimmy Carter, after two partial agreements were mediated by Kissinger
in 1974 and 1975 (Sinai I and Sinai II).The peace with Egypt, which


Moscow strongly opposed, had major geopolitical benefits for Israel as
it protected Israel’s western border. Also highly beneficial to Israel was
the fact that the US replaced the Soviet Union as the main backer of
Egypt, Israel’s most formidable foe.

After a hiatus of a few years when Nixon resigned and was replaced
by Gerald Ford who in turn was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the US
Presidential election of 1976, Brezhnev once again pursued a trade
agreement and a strategic arms accord with Jimmy Carter who seemed
equally desirous of reaching the agreements ( 16 ). Once again
Brezhnev proved willing to facilitate the deal by allowing Soviet Jews to
emigrate, and the number of emigrating Soviet Jews reached a record
51,000 in 1979, the year the agreements were signed. Unfortunately
for the Soviet Jews, however, the subsequent Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan in December 1979 ended the Soviet-American
rapprochement and Soviet Jewish emigration plummeted over the next
few years.

Meanwhile the Soviet economy was stagnating and Brezhnev was
aging and looking weaker and weaker. Consequently, when Israel
invaded Southern Lebanon in June 1982 to eliminate the “state within
a state” which the PLO had established there, Moscow looked impotent
and Brezhnev died a few months later. (17)



After a brief interlude when first Yuri Andropov and then Konstantin
Chernenko ran the USSR, the young and vigorous Mikhail Gorbachev
took power in March 1985 as Communist Party leader. He faced
daunting challenges. First, the USSR was bogged down in Afghanistan
with no end in sight. Second, the Soviet economy was stagnating, and
the USSR was hard put to keep up with US President Ronald Reagan’s
major increases in US defense spending. Consequently, after a year of
assessing the situation Gorbachev decided that major changes were
necessary in both Russia’s domestic and foreign policy. At the same
time Reagan was making it clear that if the Soviet Union wanted trade
and strategic arms agreements, it had to change its behavior on human
rights and in the Third World where Moscow was supporting
insurgencies in Angola and Mozambique, aiding the Vietnamese
occupation of Cambodia, and supporting the PLO and Syria against
Israel. (18)

Interestingly enough, during his first year in office when all other
policy initiatives were on hold,, Gorbachev did make a gesture to Israel.
Soviet-Israeli talks were held in Helsinki, but foundered after ninety
minutes as the Israeli delegation pushed the issue of Soviet Jewish


emigration which had dropped to a little over a thousand in 1985.(19)
By 1986, however, Gorbachev perhaps spurred by the Chernobyl
nuclear disaster and the drop in oil prices to $10 a barrel(The Soviet
economy then, as the Russian economy is today, was heavily
dependent on oil exports), had made his fundamental decision. He
realized that to invigorate the Soviet economy and make other
domestic policy changes, he needed an unthreatening foreign policy
environment, and to achieve this he had to improve relations with the
United States. Consequently, he announced that the USSR was
withdrawing from Afghanistan, reducing the size of its army in Eastern
Europe(including tanks, aircraft and artillery) and reducing the size of
the Soviet army on China’s border. As far as the Middle East was
concerned, he changed Soviet policy and bluntly told Syria and the PLO
that they had to settle their differences with Israel politically, and not
by war, a development not favored by Assad or PLO leader Yasser
Arafat. Gorbachev also established Consular relations with Israel in
1988(Relations on the ambassadorial level were restored in 1991) and
the Soviet press thanked Israel for its assistance in rescuing survivors of
the Armenian earthquake in 1988.(20)As far as Soviet Jewry was
concerned, after a major demonstration in Washington calling for the
exodus of Soviet Jews while Gorbachev was visiting the United States
in December 1987, Gorbachev turned on the emigration spigot and by
1989 hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate.


By the time the Soviet Union had collapsed in 1991, Israel’s
geopolitical position had been enhanced. Not only did its peace treaty
with Egypt protect its western border, it had been augmented by
hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews which helped its high tech and
military- industrial base. In addition, Gorbachev’s decision to limit arms
sales to Syria helped weaken the threat to Israel from that country
and his advice to the PLO to settle its dispute with Israel politically and
not by force, may have been one of the factors (along with Arafat’s
isolation in the Arab world after backing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s
invasion of Kuwait in 1990) convincing Arafat to negotiate the 1993
OSLO accord with Israel.

E. THE YELTSIN ERA: 1991-1991

When Boris Yeltsin became the leader of the Russian Federation, the
main successor state of the Soviet Union, the Middle East was not
central to his concerns. He had a very ambitious, if ultimately
unsuccessful, domestic reform policy, and his main concern in foreign
policy, besides relations with the United States, was how to manage
relations with the newly independent states of the Former Soviet
Union, which the Russian leader called the “near abroad”. As far as the
Middle East was concerned, Russia’s primary interests were Turkey and


Iran , countries which now bordered the “near abroad” and not,
initially, the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Consequently, Moscow supported
both the Oslo Accords and the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement of
1994( in sharp contrast to Brezhnev’s opposition to the Israeli-Egyptian
peace agreement). Unfortunately, what was described to me by a
Russian diplomat as a “honeymoon period” in Russian-Israeli relations
was not to last ( 21 ) as Yeltsin moved to the right politically and away
from the United States.

As this process went on, Moscow became increasingly critical of
Israeli policy, especially after the anti-Western Yevgeny Primakov
became Russia’s foreign minister in 1995. Consequently, Moscow
condemned Israel for its actions against Hizbollah in Lebanon in 1996.
Nonetheless, the emigration of Russian Jews to Israel continued freely,
albeit in smaller numbers than in the Gorbachev era.

Meanwhile, unlike in Soviet times, bilateral relations developed
rapidly . Cultural ties between the two countries blossomed as actors
and writers went back and forth between Russia and Israel, and a
Russian satellite broadcast an Israeli commercial from outer space. In
addition, Russian tourists began to flock to Israel where they found a
welcoming atmosphere of Russian language newspapers, a Russian
language TV station and numerous Russian Orthodox holy sites. In
addition trade increased , reaching $500 million by 1995, at the time
making Israel Russia’s second leading Middle East trade partner after
Turkey. (22)


On the diplomatic front, there appeared to be some hope for an
improved Russian-Israeli relationship when Benjamin Netanyahu
became Israel’s Prime Minister after defeating Shimon Peres in the
Israel’s May 1996 election. In 1997, Netanyahu visited Moscow and
gave Russia a $50 million agricultural credit, and also discussed
purchasing natural gas from Moscow. The two countries also agreed to
jointly produce an AWACS aircraft, with Russia providing the airframe
and Israel the avionics. However, relations cooled by the end of 1997 as
Netanyahu cancelled further discussion of the natural gas deal because

of the Russian supply of missile technology to Iran which, by the mid-
1990’s, had emerged as Israel’s primary security problem.(23) This, on

top of a Russian agreement in 1995 to supply a nuclear reactor to Iran,
appeared to pave the way for Iran not only to develop nuclear weapons
but also the missile delivery system that would pose a mortal danger to

However, relations were to improve toward the end of Yeltsin’s
time in office when Netanyahu’s foreign minister, Ariel Sharon,
supported the Russian position opposing the US intervention in Kosovo.
Perhaps as a matter of reciprocation, then Russian Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov advised Arafat against proclaiming a Palestinian State on May 4,
1999, a major concern of Israel at the time. (24)


By the end of 1999, Yeltsin had resigned as Russia’s president. He was
replaced by Vladimir Putin who would have a very mixed relationship
with Israel.
F. THE PUTIN ERA: 2000 –?
Putin’s foreign policy toward Israel can be divided into four periods.
In the first (2000-2004), as Putin consolidated power domestically,
there was, initially, a harmonization of Russian bilateral relations with
Israel and Moscow’s regional policy in the Middle East. During the
second period (2004-2008), there was a sharp divergence of Russia’s
bilateral ties with Israel and its regional policy as Putin began to
embrace major enemies of Israel such as Syria, Hamas, Hizbollah and
Iran. There was some moderation of Russia’s regional policy in the
period 2008-2012 when Putin and his Prime Minister, Dmitri

Medvedev, switched positions and Russia postponed the sale of SAM-
300 air defense missiles to Iran and Israel proved willing to sell drones

to Russia after the poor performance of Russian drones in Russia’s brief
2008 war with Georgia. From 2012-2023, however, while Putin
returned as Russia’s President, he adopted an increasingly anti-Western
policy, annexed the Crimea and intervened militarily in the Donbass in
2014; intervened militarily in Syria in 2015; interfered with the US,
German and French elections in the 2016-2017 period; and ,most
seriously, mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
However, during this period , even as Putin embraced such Israeli
enemies as Syria and Iran, he was careful to maintain good relations
with Israel although problems emerged because of conflicting Russian
and Israeli goals in Syria and also over the Israeli reaction to the
Russian invasion of Ukraine.


From 2000-2004 ,as Putin consolidated power, he initially followed a
regional policy that was favorable toward Israel, a position welcomed
by Israel which made a series of gestures to Putin including backing the
Russian position on the rebellion in Chechnya which was becoming
increasingly Islamist, and by sending medical supplies to the victims of
the Moscow apartment house bombings which Putin blamed on the
Chechens. Moscow reciprocated Israeli help when the Al-Aksa Intifada
broke out in September 2000 when Sergei Lavrov, then head of Russia’s
security council and later Russia’s Foreign Minister, likened the violence
in the West Bank and Gaza to extremist activity in Chechnya, and
Moscow abstained on a UN Security Council vote in December 2000 to
deploy a UN observer force on the West Bank and Gaza.(25) By 2001,
however, Russia’s regional policy had begun to swing against Israel as
Putin unilaterally cancelled the 1995 Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement
under which Russia would cease supplying Iran with military equipment
once existing agreements had run out. Then, in 2003, despite a visit by
then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Moscow, Russia supported a
UN General Assembly resolution that condemned Israel for building a
security fence on the West Bank and Putin continued to back
Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat as still politically relevant
despite Israel’s efforts to isolate him because of his support for the
Intifada. Russia further distanced itself from Israel in 2004 when
Moscow supported a UN Security Council resolution that condemned
Israel for an anti-terrorist attack in Gaza. (26)


By 2005, with his domestic position now secured, Putin began a
policy of cultivating radical forces in the Middle East—Syria, Iran,
Hamas and Hizbollah, all four of which were major enemies of Israel. At
the same time, in a clear bifurcation of policy that was to last through
early 2023, Putin also sought to strengthen bilateral ties with Israel.

Putin’s first order of business was to rebuild ties with Syria which
had been badly damaged under Gorbachev. Thus he waved 75% of
Syria’s $13.4 billion debt to Russia(that had accumulated in Soviet
times), and just before Putin’s visit to Israel in April , 2005—the first
visit by a Russian leader to the Jewish State— Russia and Syria signed
an agreement under which Russia would supply Syria with short-range
anti-aircraft missiles. Then, in November 2005, Russia agreed to provide
Iran with short-range surface to air missiles that could help protect
Iran’s nuclear reactor against an Israeli attack.(27)

Despite Putin’s visit to Israel, which was primarily symbolic in
nature, Putin then moved to help yet another enemy of Israel—Hamas.
In January 2006, Hamas, which by its covenant is sworn to Israel’s

destruction, won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The so-
called “Diplomatic Quartet” (The US, Russia, the UN and the European

Union) which was then sponsoring the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,
immediately pledged that it would not deal with Hamas until it
recognized Israel and all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Three
weeks later Putin broke the Diplomatic Quartet agreement by inviting a


Hamas delegation to Moscow without requiring it to conform to the
Quartet’s requirements, thereby bestowing a modicum of legitimacy on

the terrorist organization. In addition, in what could be termed a zero-
sum approach to Russian-American competition in the Middle East,

Putin called the Hamas election victory, “a very serious blow” to US
policy in the Middle East. (28)

Moscow continued its regional anti-Israel policy in 2006 when it
both condemned Israel for its actions during the Israeli-Hizbollah war
and looked the other way when Syria transferred Russian anti-tank
weapons to Hizbollah. Then, in 2007, Russia agreed to sell long-range
SAM-300 air defense missiles to Iran, which would make any Israeli air
attack on Iran’s nuclear reactor considerably more difficult.

Israeli sought to change Russia’s anti-Israeli regional policy in 2008
when war broke out between Russia and Georgia. Not only did Israel
stop sending Georgia weapons, but once the war was over Israel agreed
to sell Russia drones—something Moscow needed given the poor
performance of Russian drones during the war. In an apparent quid pro
quo, Russia then agreed not to sell the SAM-300 air defense system to
Syria (29)

With Dmitri Medvedev now as Russia’s President, Russian-Israeli
relations at the regional level continued to improve. The most


important Russian action in this regard was Medvedev’s decision
(reversed by Putin in 2015) to postpone the delivery of the SAM-300
system to Iran. Also helping Israel was Russia’s vote to sanction Iran
because of its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, bilateral relations between Israel and Russia continued
to develop at a rapid pace. Mention has already been made of Putin’s
visit to Israel in 2005, and he was to make another visit in 2012 where
he unveiled a monument to the Red Army soldiers who died in World
War Two fighting the Nazis. In addition, by 2010 trade had risen to $2.5
billion annually, the two countries signed an agreement on
nanotechnology (Israel had become a world leader in nanotechnology);
a Russian cultural center was established in Tel-Aviv; a visa waiver
agreement was signed to facilitate tourism, and Czarist church
property in Jerusalem was returned to Russia, something beneficial to
Putin as he sought to bolster his domestic position(as had the Czars) by
establishing close relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.(30)

The outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2010 in Tunisia and its spread to
Syria in 2011 helped Israel strategically as it both removed Syria as
being an active opponent of Israel and forced the Assad regime to give
up some of its chemical weapons arsenal under a Russian-American
agreement ( 31). However, the problem for Israel was that, as initially
Russia was just aiding Syria diplomatically and with arms to fight the
Syrian rebels in what turned out to be a civil war;Iran was helping Syria


as well and was trying to establish bases in Syria from which it could
attack Israel. Israel responded to the Iranian threat by regularly
bombing Iranian and Hizbollah positions and convoys in Syria. The
situation changed, however, when Russia intervened militarily in Syria
in 2015 and established air bases and SAM 300 and 400 positions that
could hamper Israeli air strikes. This necessitated a new strategy on
Israel’s part. Consequently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
made numerous trips to Russia to coordinate the two countries’
military activities in Syria, and a “hot line” was established to avoid a
Russian-Israeli conflict as Israel agreed to give Russia advanced notice
of its plans to attack Iranian or Hizbollah targets in Syria. Putin
acquiesced in the continuing Israeli attacks in part because he wanted
to weaken Iran which was both an ally fighting anti-Assad forces and a
competitor for influence in Syria, and in part because Israel agreed not
to aid the anti-Assad forces in Syria ( 32)

This agreement appeared to work well with only one major glitch In
the early fall of 2018 when a Syrian anti-aircraft team ,supervised by
Russian advisors , (33 ) shot down a Russian plane, mistaking it for an
Israeli warplane . The Syrian anti-aircraft team did not admit its mistake
(or its incompetence), instead blaming the incident on Israel as did the
Russian Defense Ministry (Putin was more even-handed in his
comments on the incident). While Russia responded by giving Syria the
SAM-300 air defense system, the diplomatic repercussions of the


incident quickly blew over and Russian-Israeli coordination in Syria
continued, as did Israeli bombing of Iranian and Hizbollah positions in

Meanwhile, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which had been
effectively frozen since 2014, was shaken up by the advent of Donald J.
Trump to the American Presidency in 2017. Trump was far more
friendly to Israel than Barack Obama had been , pulling the US out of
the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran as Netanyahu had long
advocated; recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights;
turning a blind eye to Israeli settlement expansion and perhaps most
important, moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
All these actions of Trump were opposed by Putin, although Russia did
recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in line with Putin’s
continued call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump also brought forth a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan that
awarded Israel 30% of the West Bank. The plan was denounced not
only by Russia, the Arab World and the Israeli Left, but also by then US
Democratic Party Presidential candidate Joe Biden. Moscow was less
critical of the Trump-negotiated Abraham Accords between Israel and
the United Arab Emirates, Bahrein and Morocco, in part because Putin
was cultivating good relations with the United Arab Emirates, which
had played a major role in the Accords, something that would pay off
for him after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022 when the UAE


adopted a neutral position in the war. Finally, in a blow to Israel, Putin
supported the Palestinian position on a UNESCO resolution that only
the Palestinians, and not Israel, had a claim to Jerusalem.(34)

Still, on the bilateral level, Russian-Israeli relations remained close.
Cultural relations flourished, trade reached $3.5 billion annually, and
Russian Jews continued to move freely to Israel. Putin appeared to see
the Russian-speaking community in Israel as something that benefitted
Russia which he portrayed as the center of the Russian-speaking world.
In addition, Jews from the Former Soviet Union like Avigdor Lieberman
attained high positions in the Israeli government such as foreign
minister and defense minister and this was seen as a net plus for
Moscow since Lieberman proved to be one of the most pro-Russian
voices in the Israeli cabinet although, as noted below, even he was
taken aback by the anti-Semitic comments of Russian foreign Minister
Sergi Lavrov in May 2022 which Lieberman sharply criticized.

It should also be noted that Putin sought to help Netanyahu in the
multiple Israeli elections held between 2019 and 2021 as just before
the April 2019 Israeli election, Putin secured the return to Israel of the
remains of an Israeli soldier killed in Lebanon in 1982.(35) In addition ,
in 2018, Moscow signed an agreement with Israel to pay $83 million in
pensions to former Soviet citizens now living in Israel.(36)


This, then, was the Russian-Israeli relationship when Russia invaded
Ukraine in 2022—very good bilateral relations, a modus vivendi on
Syria, but Russia siding with the enemies of Israel within the Middle


When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February
2022, many observers were surprised when Israel, a close ally of the
United States, did not follow the US lead in sanctioning Russia for the
invasion, but stayed relatively neutral during the first year of the
invasion although it did provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine. This was
not the first time that Israel had remained neutral during a conflict
between Russia and Ukraine. In 2014 when Russia seized the Crimea
and sent forces into the Donbass, Israel was de facto neutral on a UN
vote to condemn the Russian action—much to the displeasure of the
Obama Administration—and did not impose sanctions on Russia as the
US did (37) . Significantly, two weeks before the 2022 invasion, Israeli
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who had come into office at the head of
an eight party coalition government in June 2022 made the following
comments about the US-Israeli relationship :


“The US was and will remain our best friend, but Washington has its
own constellation of interests which do not always overlap with ours.
Its interest in the region at the moment is declining.” (38)

The eight-party coalition, however, was not unified in its
attitude toward the Russian invasion. Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign
minister and head of the Yesh Atid Party, was the most critical of the
Russian action and his comments were regularly criticized by Moscow.
Still, while Israel did provide Ukraine with a field hospital, flack jackets
and helmets and other humanitarian aid, it did not provide Ukraine
with the kind of defensive weaponry which it needed, despite the pleas
of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Nor did it enact sanctions
on Russia despite the admonitions of senior Biden Administration
officials like Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Viktoria Nuland
who told Israel’s Channel 12 news two weeks after the invasion that
Israel’s joining the sanctions was the most important thing Israel could
do for the United States even more than giving military aid to Ukraine
or mediating between Putin and Zelensky which Israel, unsuccessfully,
had tried to do.(39) Security considerations were uppermost in
Bennett’s mind as he told CNN’s Christine Amanpour on April 20,2022.
“ Iran is always trying to surround us and to build up more and more
rockets that will threaten Israel’s population centers, We are not going
to let that happen anywhere, including Syria” ( 40 )

Nonetheless, despite Bennett’s efforts to remain neutral, Russian-
Israeli relations sharply deteriorated in early May when Lavrov, in


response to a media query as to how Moscow could claim to be
fighting Nazis in Ukraine when Ukraine’s president was Jewish, asserted
that he thought Hitler had Jewish blood and that “for a long time we’ve
been hearing the nice Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites
are the Jews themselves” (41 ) These comments were too much, even
for Bennett and Lieberman who condemned them, with Lieberman
demanding an apology for Lavrov’s “absurd comments” (42). As might
be expected Lapid offered the strongest criticism of Lavrov’s
“ This is an unforgiveable and scandalous comment, a terrible
historical error and we expect an apology. Hitler was not of Jewish
origin and the Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. ..We
are making every effort to maintain good relations with Russia, but
there is a line, and this time the line has been crossed. The Russian
Government must apologize to us and to the Jewish people. “ (43)

The situation eased somewhat when Bennett and Putin had a
telephone conversation and Bennett later said that Putin had
apologized, but no such apology was reported in the Russian press.(44)
In any case, one month later the Israeli Government fell and new
elections were scheduled for November 2022. In the interim, Lapid,
who had been the most anti-Russian leader of the outgoing
government and had been regularly criticized by Moscow, became
interim Prime Minister. Perhaps fearing a stronger Israeli tilt to Ukraine,
Moscow decided to send Lapid a signal by threatening to close down
the Jewish Agency offices in Russia. (45) Given the fact that the main


purpose of the Jewish agency was to facilitate the emigration of Russian
Jews to Israel, the message was very clear. Although Moscow has yet
to follow through on its threat (as of 22 February 2023,the time of
writing) the threat remained and seemed to have worked as Israel,
through the rest of Lapid’s time in office did not markedly change its
position of neutrality in the war. (46)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s return as Israeli Prime Minister following the
November 2022 Israeli elections appeared to herald the return of
improved Russian-Israeli relations, at least at the bilateral level, given
the personal tie between Putin and Netanyahu. Yet a new development
threatened Russian-Israeli relations. Iran, Israel’s mortal enemy, had
been sending drones to Russia to augment the rapidly diminishing stock
of Russian drones. It is still unclear what Iran got in return for its help
but there were reports that Russia would send Iran its advanced Sukhoi
35 bomber, which could directly threaten Israel. Even worse, as far as
Israel’s security was concerned, in early February, 2023 the WALL
STREET JOURNAL reported that Iran and Russia would jointly construct,
in Russia, a factory to produce advanced drones. (47) Not only would
these drones be a threat to Ukraine whose energy infrastructure had
suffered badly from drone attacks, the drones would also be a threat to
Israel. Given the circumstances, it was unclear how Israel would react,
although a reported Israeli attack against a drone factory in Isfahan,
Iran took place in late January 2023 an action which helped both
Ukraine and Israel.(48) Indeed, in a CNN interview on 31 January 2023
Netanyahu stated:


“ We are attacking not only Iran’s nuclear program—trying to
thwart it—but also taking action against certain weapons development
that Iran has, and Iran invariably exports them” (49)

Whether Israel would go a step further and actually export arms,
such as air defense missiles, to Ukraine was unclear, and Netanyahu
was equivocal when asked about the possibility of Israeli arms exports
to Ukraine in an interview with the French TV channel LCI. In response
to a question on this topic Netanyahu stated that his government
would consider the question of sending the Iron Dome air defense
system to Ukraine, but :
“we have other considerations, especially the operational proximity
between the Israeli air force and the Russian air force. Russian planes
operating over Syrian air space have so far avoided any confrontation.
We do not want a military confrontation with Russia. We have
considerations that we need to take into account that other states do
not” (50)

In any case, the return of Netanyahu as Israel’s prime Minister
provides a useful point of departure for evaluating the relationship
between Moscow and Jerusalem since the birth of Israel in 1948.


There are several major conclusions that can be drawn from this
study. The first is that two major issues have dominated the
relationship between Israel and first the Soviet Union and then the
Russian Federation—the role Moscow has played in either aiding or
threatening Israeli security, and the fate of Soviet/Russian Jews and
their prospects for emigration. Initially, the USSR provided diplomatic
and military support to the nascent state of Israel, but Stalin’s
crackdown on Soviet Jewry soured the relationship. After the death of
Stalin in 1953 , and especially after Khrushchev consolidated power in
1955 the USSR switched to the Arab side of the Arab-Israeli Conflict,
providing arms and diplomatic support to two of Israel’s enemies, Egypt
and Syria. Under Brezhnev, Moscow’s hostility toward Israel reached a
new peak, as it broke diplomatic relations with Israel during the 1967
war, supplied pilots to directly confront Israel during the 1968-70 war
of attrition between Egypt and Israel, resupplied both Egypt and Syria
during the 1973 Yom Kippur war and threatened to intervene directly if
Israel did not stop its offensive late in the war, and embraced the PLO.
Ironically, however, Egypt’s turn to the US after the war weakened the
Soviet position in the Middle East as did its 1979 invasion of

Meanwhile, the Soviet Jewry movement had moved from an
Israeli one to an international effort to free Soviet Jews by the early
1970’s and Brezhnev’s concerns about a Sino-American alignment as
well as his desire to reach strategic arms and trade agreements with
the United States led him to release tens of thousands of Soviet Jews ,


irrespective of the “head tax” he had put on educated Jewish emigres
in an effort to appease the Arabs. Moscow’s invasion of Afghanistan,
however, not only weakened the Soviet position in the Middle East, it
also badly hurt Soviet-US relations and the number of Jews allowed to
leave the Soviet Union was reduced to a trickle by the time Gorbachev
came to power in Moscow in 1985.

Under Gorbachev both Israeli security and the status of Soviet
Jewry improved considerably. Not only were diplomatic relations
between the USSR and Israel restored , but Gorbachev bluntly told both
Syria and the PLO that they had to settle their differences with Israel
politically, and not by war. This greatly enhanced Israeli security
because thanks to Gorbachev, neither the PLO nor Syria could count on
Soviet help in case of war with Israel. In addition, Gorbachev’s decision
to allow hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel
helped Israel both demographically and militarily as many of the
emigrating Soviet Jews had scientific skills that enhanced Israel’s
defense capabilities

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a brief
honeymoon in Russian-Israeli diplomatic relations under Yeltsin, but
subsequently, and especially with the advent of Yevgeny Primakov as
Russia’s foreign minister, Moscow’s pro-Arab stance in the Arab-Israeli
Conflict returned. Unlike Soviet times, however, bilateral Russian-


Israeli relations flourished in part because of the influx of so many Jews
from the Former Soviet Union who soon grew to 20% of the Israeli
Jewish population as Jewish immigration from Russia continued. Trade
grew to $1 billion dollars annually, there were extensive cultural
relations, Russian tourists began to visit Israel in large numbers and
Russia and Israel collaborated on building an AWACS battle command
aircraft with Russia providing the air frame and Israel the avionics.

The advent of Putin in 2000 exacerbated the cleavage in Russian-
Israeli relations as bilateral ties on the economic, cultural and person-
to-person levels flourished, and Russian Jews continued to emigrate to

Israel; while at the regional level in the Middle East, especially after
2004, Putin backed Israel’s enemies—Syria, Hizbollah, Hamas and
especially Iran for which Russia built nuclear reactors and provided
anti-aircraft weapons systems. Nonetheless, Russian-Israeli security
relations took a new turn in 2015 when Russian forces intervened
militarily in Syria to prop up the faltering Assad regime. Israel had been
regularly bombing Iranian and Hizbollah positions in Syria to prevent
Iran from establishing bases in that country which could directly
threaten Israel, and Israel was concerned that the advent of Russian
aircraft and anti-aircraft missile systems there could hamper Israel’s
anti-Iranian actions. Netanyahu and Putin, however, worked out a
modus vivendi which allowed Israel to continue to attack Iranian and
Hizbollah positions in Syria in return for Israel agreeing not to support
the opposition forces fighting Assad. The modus vivendi, despite a


major glitch in 2018 when Syrian forces shot down a Russian plane but
blamed it on Israel , has lasted until the time of writing (February 2023),
and was clearly a cause of Israeli neutrality when Russia invaded

Ukraine in February 2022. . Whether the advent of increased Russian-
Iranian military cooperation and the possible acquisition by Iran of

advanced Russian warplanes will make Moscow less willing to tolerate
Israeli attacks on Iran in Syria, or, conversely, change Israeli policy on
arming Ukraine remains to be seen but so far at least Israel has resisted
the pleas of Ukrainian leader Zelensky and the US to provide arms to
Ukraine. Moscow has also sent a not too subtle signal to Israel by
threatening to close down the Jewish Agency—and Jewish emigration
to Israel—if Israel sends weapons to Ukraine.
A second major conclusion to be drawn from this study is that Israel
is clearly the junior partner in what appears to be a rather one-sided
Russian-Israeli relationship, as it has developed since 2000. There have
been numerous attempts by Israel to mollify Putin, but with only
limited success. Thus Israel stopped selling arms to Georgia, was
neutral in both the partial Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and the
full-scale invasion of 2022( angering the US in the process), and
allowed Putin to appear to play a large role on the world stage as a
leader who could talk to both sides of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. In return
Putin has legitimized Hamas, allowed Russian arms to be transshipped
from Syria to Hizbollah, consistently voted against Israel at the UN, and
armed both Syria and Iran. While Russia has permitted Israel to bomb
Iranian and Hizbollah positions in Syria, the

main reason for this appears to be that Russia wants to limit Iranian
influence in that country, but this may change as Russian-Iranian
relations grow closer. In addition, Putin has gotten a number of benefits
from his relations with Israel. These include access to Israeli high-tech,
including nanotechnology, the acquisition of Czarist church property in
Jerusalem which helps the Russian leader to reinforce his position with
the Russian Orthodox Church which is an important part of his domestic
legitimacy, and, at least in Putin’s view, the existence of a large
diaspora of Russian speaking Jews in Israel which he sees an important
component of his leadership of the Russian speaking world. The Israeli
leadership however, has so far tolerated the rather one-sided
relationship perhaps because, as one Israeli diplomat speaking of the
Russians told me “they could do worse things”. Whether this is the
correct policy for Israel in the long run is, however a very open question
especially as this policy tends to alienate the United States, Israel’s
main diplomatic defender and military supplier.


  1. Freedman, “Soviet Jewry as a Factor in Soviet-Israeli Relations”,
  2. Interview with David Ben-Gurion, Sde Boker, Israel July 18,1971
  4. The Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem documents S/25/486
    and S/25/9299; THE MAISKY DIARIES.329
  5. Ibid, document S/25/9299; Freedman, “The Partition of Palestine:
    Conflicting Nationalism and Great Power Rivalry” . 204-206; Ro’I,
    MIDDLE EAST 17-108
  7. Riasanovsky A HISTORY OF RUSSIA 477-484.
  8. Gilboa, THE BLACK YEARS OF SOVIET JEWRY; Rappaport,
  9. Herzog, 112
    “Soviet Jewry as a Factor”
  11. Korey, ‘Brezhnev and Soviet Anti-Semitism” 29-37
  12. Herzog, 214-219
  13. Freedman, “Soviet Jewry and Soviet-American Relations” 38-


  1. IBID. p.46.; Beckerman, WHEN THEY COME FOR US WE’LL BE
  2. Herzog, .278-279
  3. FREEDMAN, “Soviet Jewry and Soviet-American Relations”,
  6. IBID. p.29
  7. Ibid p.65
  8. Interview, Russian Embassy, Tel-Aviv, Israel July 2, 1992
  9. Freedman, “Israel and Russia: Jerusalem and its Relations
    with Moscow Under Putin”, 128-129
  10. IBID 129
  11. IBID
  13. Freedman, “Israel and Russia”132
  14. IBID p. 135


  1. Freedman, “Can Russia be a Partner for the United States in the
    Middle East?” 125-129
  2. Freedman, “Israel and Russia”, .142
  3. IBID .140-141
  4. Freedman, “Russia and the Arab Spring” 252-253
  5. Magen, “Russia and Israel” .266-268
  6. IBID 268-269
  7. IBID . 264
  8. Freedman, ISRAEL UNDER NETANYAHU . 294
  9. Borshchevskaya, PUTIN’S WAR IN SYRIA .136
  10. Freedman, “The Erosion of US-Israeli Relations in Obama’s
    Second Term”.257
  11. Harel, “What Gulf States Need Urgently Against Iran”
  12. Samuels, “US Growing Alarmed Over Israel’s Safe Haven
    For Russian Oligarchs”; Freedman, “Israel’s Tightrope Between
    Russia and Ukraine”
  13. Amanpour interview with Naftali Bennett,


  1. Kershner, “Israel Says Putin Apologized for Foreign
    Minister’s Anti-Semitic remarks”
  2. IBID
  3. IBID
  4. “Russia-Israel Exchange ‘Ukrainian Letters’ on Syria”
  5. Lieber, “Russia Aims To Shut Jewish Agency”; Gross, “Israeli
    Government Intervenes as Moscow Tightens Screws on Jewish
    Agency” . By January 1,2023, 43,685 people had emigrated to
    Israel from Russia (Times of Israel Staff, “Russian Jewish
    Population Down Sharply Since 2010”)
  6. Israel did , however, send 17 power generators to Ukraine to
    help it after Russian bombing severely damaged much of
    Ukraine’s electricity grid. Times of Israel Staff, “Israel to Give 17
    Power Generators to Ukraine for Electricity Starved Kherson” ,
  7. Nissenbaum, “Iran Sets Plan For Drone Factory in Russia”
  8. Cloud, “Tehran Blames Israel For Attack”,
  9. IBID
  10. “Iran and Russia Reportedly Activate Plan to Build a Drone
    Factory on Russian Territory” ,



No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author


Dr. Robert O. Freedman is visiting professor of political science at
Johns Hopkins university, where he teaches courses on Russian Foreign
Policy and on the Arab-Israeli Conflict A past president of the
Association for Israel Studies, he has also served as a commentator on
National Public Radio, the BBC, and the Voice of America. His latest
book is ISRAEL UNDER NETANYAHU (Routledge,2020)



Amanpour, Christine Interview with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali
Bennett, CNN April 20,2022
Cloud, David S “ Tehran Blames Israel for Attack”, WALL STREET
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Gilboa, Yehoshua, THE BLACK YEARS OF SOVIET JEWRY, Little Brown
Gross, Judah Ari, “Israeli Government Intervenes as Moscow Tightens
Screws on Jewish Agency” TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 21,2022


Freedman, Robert O. “The Partition of Palestine: Conflicting
Nationalism and Great Power Rivalry” in THE PROBLEM OF
PARTITION:PERIL TO WORLD PEACE, edited by Thomas Hachey , Rand
McNally,2022 175-212
…………………..”Soviet Jewry and Soviet-American Relations” in SOVIET
JEWRY IN THE DECISIVE DECADE edited by Robert O. Freedman, Duke
University Press, 1984 38-67
………………….”Soviet Jewry as a Factor in Soviet-Israeli Relations” in
SOVIET JEWRY IN THE 1980’S edited by Robert O. Freedman, Duke
University Press, 1989 61-96
THE INVASION OF AFGHANISTAN Cambridge University Press, 1991
CHALLENGE FOR PUTIN, Henry Jackson School of International Studies,
The University of Washington, 2001
…………………”Can Russia be a Partner for the United States in the Middle
East?”, in NATO-AMERICAN RELATIONS, edited by Aurel Braun
Routledge, 2008 122-135
…………….”Israel and Russia: Jerusalem and its Relations with Moscow
Under Putin” in ISRAEL AND THE WORLD POWERS edited by Colin
Shindler, I.B. Taurus, 2014 125-154


………………….”Russia and the Arab Spring” in THE ARAB SPRING edited
by David Lesch and Mark Haas ,Westview Press, 2017 241-271
…………………..”The Erosion of US-Israeli Relations in Obama’s Second
Term”, ISRAEL AFFAIRS 23 No.2 (2017) 253-272

……………………ISRAEL UNDER NETANYAHU(editor) Routledge,2020
………………Israel’s Tightrope Between Russia and Ukraine, MIDDLE EAST
QUARTERLY 29. No.4 (2022)

HA’ARETZ, “Iran and Russia Activate Plan to Build a Drone Factory on
Russian Territory”, HA’ARETZ February 5,2023
Harel, Amos “What Gulf States Need Urgently Against Iran”, HA’ARETZ
February 4,2023
MIDDLE EAST Random House,1982
Kershner, Isabel, “Israel Says Putin Apologized for Foreign Minister’s
Anti-Semitic remarks”, NEW YORK TIMES May 6,2022


Korey, William, “Brezhnev and Soviet Anti-Semitism” in SOVIET JEWRY
IN THE DECISIVE DECADE 1971-1980 edited by Robert O. Freedman,
Duke University Press,1984 29-37
Lieber, Dov, “Russia Aims to Shut Jewish Agency” WALL STREET
JOURNAL August 19,2022
Lumer, Hyman, LENIN ON THE JEWISH QUESTION International
Magen, Zvi, “Russia and Israel”, in ISRAEL UNDER NETANYAHU, edited
by Robert O. Freedman, Routledge,2020 262-272
AMBASSADOR TO LONDON, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky ,Yale
University Press, 2016
Nissenbaum, Dion, “Iran Sets Plan for Drone Factory in Russia” WALL
STREET JOURNAL, February 6,2023
Riasanovsky, Nicholas and Mark Steinberg, A HISTORY OF RUSSIA,
Oxford University Press,2005
ISRAEL 1947-1954 , Transaction Press, 1980
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012

“Russia-Israel Exchange ‘Ukrainian Letters’ on Syria”, ASHARQ AL-
AWSAT, May 22,2022

Samuels, Ben “US Growing Alarmed Over Israel’s Safe Haven for
Russian Oligarchs” THE TIMES OF ISRAEL, March 11, 2022

TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF, “Israel to Give 17 Power generators to Ukraine
for Electricity Starved Kherson”, TIMES OF ISRAEL December 20,2022
TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF, “Russian Jewish Population Down Sharply
Since 2010”, TIMES OF ISRAEL, January 11, 2023


Relations between Moscow and Jerusalem have had numerous
ups and downs since the birth of Israel in 1948. Two main issues have
dominated the relationship. The first is security, with first the Soviet
Union and then the Russian Federation providing diplomatic support
and military aid to Israel’s enemies, especially, in recent years, to Iran
and Syria. The second issue is the freedom of Jews to emigrate from
the USSR and Russia to Israel. Finally, since the advent of Putin, Israel
has been very much the junior partner in the relationship giving Russia
much more than it has gotten in return.

Dr. Freedman’s presentation on this topic can be found HERE

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