May 10, 2024


Photo Source: Kremlin

By: Dr. Robert O. Freedman

Johns Hopkins University 

In order to understand the Russian policy toward the Israel Hamas war that began on October 7, 2023, it is first  necessary to review Russian policy toward both Hamas and Israel prior to the outbreak of the war. It should be noted at the outset that Hamas is an Islamist militant organization that is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel and Israel’s replacement by an Islamic State from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. Consequently, Russia’s  relations with Hamas have been a sore point in the Russian-Israeli relationship. Though paradoxically, at least until the war, their relationship was quite good on the bilateral level, although very problematic at the regional level as Russia maintained good relations not only with Hamas, but also Iran and Syria which were also enemies of Israel. (1)


Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first Russian (or Soviet) leader to visit Israel while in office, making visits to the Jewish State in 2005, 2012 and 2020. He built on the excellent bilateral Russian-Israel relationship that had began under Boris Yeltsin, which included extensive cultural relations, built on the more than one million Jews from the Former Soviet Union living in Israel, trade relations (particularly in high tech fields such as  nanotechnology), and even military cooperation as Russia and Israel collaborated to build an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft for India with Russia providing the airframe and Israel the avionics. [A similar AWACS deal with China was vetoed by the United States]. In addition, Russia continued to allow the emigration of Russian Jews to Israel, which was of major importance to successive Israeli governments as part of their ethos of Zionism. In addition, for Putin, maintaining a diplomatic relationship with Israel also enabled the Russian leader to assert that, unlike the United States, which had no relationship with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad which the US considered terrorist organizations, Russia could talk to all sides of the Israeli Palestinian conflict (2).  

Russia’s breakthrough moment with Hamas came in early 2006 following the organization’s victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. While, initially, Putin joined the so-called Diplomatic Quartet (The US, UN, EU and Russia) in a stipulation that none of the  quartet would have any dealings with Hamas until it  renounced terrorism, recognized the State of Israel and  accepted the OSLO accords signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel; only three weeks later Putin broke the Quartet agreement by inviting a Hamas  delegation to Moscow without requiring it to fulfill any of the  Quartet’s requirements. Not only did Moscow thereby bestow a modicum of diplomatic legitimacy on Hamas through its invitation, Putin was also quoted as saying that the Hamas victory was a major blow to American policy in  the Middle East, a statement that, along with the Hamas  invitation to visit Moscow, should have alerted George W. Bush Administration that Russia would not be a suitable partner in Middle East diplomacy (3) 

Unfortunately for Moscow, however, the following year witnessed an open break between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas as Hamas violently seized power in Gaza, killing a number of Fatah officials there in the process. This posed a difficult problem of choice for Putin who sought to maintain good relations with both groups. The Russian leader sought to solve this problem by urging unity between the two sides, hosting numerous meetings of the two groups in Moscow—a policy that continued after the 2023 Israel-Hamas war erupted(See below), but so far at least (April 2024), Putin’s policy of urging  unity has not proven successful.  

As Moscow pursued a policy of seeking Palestinian unity, it ran into problems with Hamas. Perhaps the most serious clash took place in 2011 when the civil war in Syria broke out and Hamas, a faction of the Moslem Brotherhood, sided  with the Sunni Moslem opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, a close ally of Moscow and of Iran. While there was a limited reconciliation between Hamas and Assad in 2022, and Iran resumed clandestine arms shipments to Hamas, strains remained in Hamas’s relationships with both Syria and Iran at the time of the outbreak of the 2023 Israel-Hamas war(4). 

When the war broke out, Russia had been at war in  Ukraine for more than a year and a half. As will be seen, the  war in Ukraine affected the way Putin viewed the Israel – Hamas war. The Russian invasion of Ukraine also posed  some difficult problems of choice for Israel. Following the  Russian invasion, Israel came under heavy pressure from its  main ally, the United States to cut its economic ties with  Russia, to ban all flights to and from Russia and to denounce  the Russian invasion(5). While Israel, then led by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, somewhat belatedly did  criticize the Russian invasion at the UN, it did not cut  economic relations with Russia or cancel air flights between the two countries. Bennett even flew to Moscow on the  Jewish Sabbath in an unsuccessful effort to mediate the conflict(6). 

The reason for the Israeli reluctance to enforce  sanctions against Russia was due to two factors. First, Moscow continued to allow the freedom of movement of Israeli war planes through Syrian airspace—much of which  was protected by Russian SAM-300 and SAM-400 ground to air missiles which had been installed by Russia following Putin’s military intervention in Syria in 2015 to save Assad  against the increasingly powerful Syrian opposition. The purpose of the Israeli sorties was to destroy military positions set up by Iran near Israel’s borders and also to interdict arms shipments; which Iran was sending through Syria to its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. The second factor impelling Israel to maintain a quasi-neutral position on the Russian invasion lay in its desire to maintain Russian-Jewish immigration to Israel. Despite some Russian threats to limit Jewish immigration and the increasingly anti-Semitic comments by Russian leaders, the flow of Russian Jews into Israel continued in 2022 and 2023(7). The Israeli Government also  rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s requests for Israeli anti-missile and anti-aircraft equipment, although Israel did supply Ukraine a field hospital and other kinds of  humanitarian aid, and Israeli Foreign Minister (and later briefly to be Prime Minister) Yair Lapid became increasingly vocal in his criticism of Russia’s actions in the war.(8)  

While Israel maintained its quasi-neutral position  during the Russia-Ukraine war, the Israeli leadership grew increasingly concerned about the rapidly developing military relationship between Russia and Iran during the war as Moscow became dependent on Iranian drones and missiles. The two countries also decided to jointly build a drone factory in Russia, and Israel feared it would be the target of Iranian drones, as it indeed was in April 2024 (See below).  The Israeli leaders were also concerned Russia would help  Iran with its missile technology and supply it with the most  advanced Russian military aircraft, the SU-35. While Russia  did supply Iran with Yak training planes, it has not yet (as of  April 2024) supplied Iran with SU-35’s, although the reason for this may not have been to placate Israel, but to assuage the fears of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two Gulf Arab countries which Putin was endeavoring to cultivate(9).

When, following an Israeli election Benjamin Netanyahu  returned to office as Israel’s prime Minister in December  2022 it initially appeared as if Russian-Israeli relations would  improve as Putin and Netanyahu had developed a close  personal relationship between 2015 and 2021 as the Israeli  Prime Minister made multiple trips to Russia to ensure that  Israel could maintain its freedom of activity in Syrian  airspace, and Putin assisted Netanyahu in his election  campaign in 2019(10). Putin warmly congratulated Netanyahu on his 2022 election victory and it appeared that  bilateral Russian-Israeli relations did in fact improve as Moscow opened an annex to its Tel-Aviv embassy in Jerusalem, a diplomatic event warmly welcomed by Netanyahu who was seeking international diplomatic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital(11). Unfortunately for Israel however, once its war with Hamas erupted in October 2023, Russian-Israeli relations were to deteriorate rapidly.


When the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October 2023,  Russia had been involved in its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine for a year and a half. Given the challenges Russia has faced during the war, Putin has sought allies in the so called “Global South” and has sought to portray Russia’s war against Ukraine as a war against NATO and what Moscow described as Western neo-colonialism. This overall  policy perspective has shifted Russia from its once close bilateral relationship with Israel which it sees as part of the Western camp to an increasingly pro-Hamas position. Interestingly enough however, despite Russia’s rising anti-Israeli (and anti-Semitic) rhetoric, Israel’s two main goals in its dealing with Russia—the freedom of action for the Israeli  air force in Syrian airspace and the continued emigration of Russian Jews to Israel continued to be achieved. Indeed, Israel expanded its activity in Syria, flying missions all over the country and even bombing the annex of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, an action that was to lead to a  serious confrontation between Israel and Iran (See below).

The Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7,2023 with the cross border attack by Hamas that led to the murder of 1200 Israelis, the rape of a number of Israeli women and the taking of 240 hostages back into Gaza. Israel responded first by bombing suspected Hamas positions in Gaza and then with a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip. Putin was initially silent during the first few days of the war, as the Russian leader was probably assessing the costs and benefits for Russia from the war. On the benefit side, the war diverted U.S. and Western attention from the war in Ukraine. Putin may have hoped that it would divert U.S. weapons that would have gone to Ukraine to Israel although Republican Congressional opposition in the US to aid to Ukraine was to serve the same purpose. In addition, since the Palestinian issue was popular in the Global South, with the exception of the Modi regime in India, which remained  pro-Israeli. Since U.S. President Joe Biden immediately came out in support of Israel and transferred weapons to the Jewish State, Putin may have hoped that the war would weaken the U.S. position in the Global South. On the other hand, however, since Iran was an ally of Hamas (although because of the Hamas role  in the Syrian civil war, Iran’s relationship with Hamas was not  as close as Tehran’s tie to Hezbollah in Lebanon) there was a danger of a conflict between Israel and Iran because  Hezbollah started firing rockets into northern Israel in support of Hamas. In any case, when Putin did publicly respond to the war a few days after the war started, he did not blame Hamas but called the war “a clear example of the  failure of US policy in the Middle East which has never  defended the interest of the Palestinians in peace talks”(12). Putin, however, did acknowledge Israel’s right to self-defense, saying it had suffered an “unprecedented attack”. He then  compared the Israeli invasion of Gaza to the Nazi siege of Leningrad(13). After Putin’s statement, Russia introduced a  UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire and the release of hostages (some of whom were Russian citizens). The US, however, vetoed the Russian UNSC resolution because it did not mention the Hamas attack. Several months later it was Russia which vetoed a similar U.S.-UNSC resolution because it did mention the Hamas  attack. Russia also provided humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. 

In another effort to demonstrate that Russia had a role to play in the conflict, Putin offered to host a meeting of foreign ministers to bring an end to the war, stating “we have very stable trade relations with Israel and we have (had) friendly relations with the Palestinians for decades”(14). The Russian leader, however, got no support for his planned meeting. Putin then had a belated condolence call with Netanyahu in mid-October, but followed it with a formal invitation to a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow—less than  two weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel—thereby appearing to legitimize both the organization and the attack. This was reminiscent of Putin’s invitation to a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in January 2006(See above). Needless to say, the Israeli leadership was furious with the visit. The Russian ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, was summoned to the Israeli Foreign Ministry where the then Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Euro-Asian division, Simona Halperin ( who was later to become the Israeli  ambassador to Russia) told him: “Hosting Hamas leaders who are directly responsible for the murderous terror attack on October 7, the kidnapping of hostages, and with the blood of over 1200 Israelis on their hands sends a message of legitimacy for terror against Israel”(15).

It is possible that the pro-Hamas tilt in Russian foreign policy together with the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the official Russian Press, which was often directed against Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, who is Jewish, may have encouraged near pogroms in the North Caucasus soon after the visit of the Hamas delegation. Rioters stormed the airport at Makhachkala, Dagestan as a flight from Israel was arriving, a Jewish community center was set afire, and a hotel was put under siege as rioters sought to discover if there were any Jews among the guests. While Putin blamed the mob’s actions on Ukraine, the actions of the rioters had to be problematic for him as they served to undermine his description of the Russian Federation as a place of interfaith and inter-ethnic harmony(16).

Meanwhile, Russia’s anti-Israeli rhetoric was growing, as the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, stated on November 2nd that Israel, being an “occupying state” did not have the right to self-defense, under international law(17). There appeared to be a slight  improvement of Russian-Israeli relations in December as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at the Doha forum, stated that Hamas had carried out a “terrorist attack”, but followed up this statement by the comment “at the same time it is unacceptable to use this event for the collective punishment of millions of Palestinian people with indiscriminate shelling”(18). In looking at the reasons for the change in Moscow’s tone about Hamas, it is possible that Lavrov was appealing to the leadership of the Arab States in attendance who viewed Hamas negatively as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they saw as a threat to their regimes. This was especially the case of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Putin also made another telephone call to Netanyahu, this time according to Russian sources to discuss the crisis caused by the Hamas attack(19). According to the Israeli version of the call, Netanyahu criticized Russia’s UN representatives for their “anti-Israeli positions” and the Israeli leader also voiced  “robust disapproval” of Russia’s “dangerous cooperation” with Iran(20). According to the Russian version of the call, Putin highlighted “the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip”.(21) 

In January 2024, Russian-Israeli relations took another turn for the worse, as during a meeting on Syria at Astana, Kazakhstan the Russian special representative for Syria, Alexander Lavrenyev, stated, in reference to South Africa’s lawsuit at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide, that Israel’s actions in Gaza represents a “real crime” which “can even be interpreted as genocide”(22). This theme was echoed by the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Andrey Kelin, who asserted that “The goal of Israel (in Gaza) is to remove the local population. I would say there are reasons for South Africa to raise this issue with the International Court of Justice” (23). In addition, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized Germany for defending Israel at the International Court of Justice, given Germany’s actions in World War II. She then went on to compare Germany’s defense of Israel with its support for Ukraine(24). 

Meanwhile, Russia was stepping up its efforts to woo the Global South. Taking a page from the old Soviet playbook, when the USSR was wooing the Third World with the Soviet Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Association( 25). Putin created, through his United Russia Party, an organization called “The  Forum of Supporters for the Fight Against Neocolonialism and the Freedom of Nations”. Meeting in Moscow in mid February, the organization expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and emphasized what it called “The inextricable causal link between the crimes of colonialism and neocolonialism and the continued growth of inequality in the modern world”(26). 

Putin also sought to exploit the growing crisis in Gaza to once again urge Palestinian unity between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. To do this, he convened a Palestinian unity conference in Moscow at the end of February. Even though it did not appear that Hamas and Fatah were ready to agree to unify—so deep were their  differences—neither group felt able to resist Moscow’s  invitation. For Hamas, which was getting battered by Israeli attacks, Russia offered important diplomatic cover, especially in the UN, while the Palestinian Authority, which  had been sidelined by the ongoing conflict in Gaza may have seen the Moscow meeting as a means of improving its diplomatic position. In any case, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did not want to alienate Russia by refusing to participate in the meeting. As the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Moscow, Hafiz Nofal, noted, “We are not the ones proposing this (conference). It was Russia. And we did not want to say no. Logically, we did not want to refuse”(27). 

Despite the failure of many such “unity” conferences in the past, Putin may have hoped that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza would propel the two major Palestinian groups toward unity. Indeed at the start of the conference, Lavrov offered to the Palestinian groups the services of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special envoy to the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov as well as the head of the Oriental Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vitaly Naumkin to provide “advisory services” to help mediate the discussions(28). Unfortunately for Moscow, however, the  meeting turned out to be a failure despite the final communique calling for unity. Lavrov seemed to sense this when, in commenting on the conference’s final communique, he remarked, “Unless it remains a slogan, it  will actually be a good step forward for them to get truly united and speak in the same voice to the outside world”(29). Indeed, even the pretense of unity was shattered two weeks after the conference when Hamas attacked Abbas’s choice for the Palestinian Authority’s new Prime Minister, Mohamed Mustafa, a close confidant of Abbas, asserting that the choice was made without consulting it, despite the meeting in Moscow(30). For its part, the Palestinian Authority attacked Hamas for not consulting it ,”when it made the decision to undertake the October 7 adventure which brought down upon the Palestinian people a Nakhba(disaster) even more horrible than that of 1948”(31). Moscow sought to put the best possible light on the continuing Hamas-Fatah conflict by praising the appointment of Mustafa while also hoping that he would “enjoy the support of the entire Palestinian population”(32). 

As TASS reported: 

“The Russian side hailed the decision to form a  professional Palestinian Government led by renowned  Palestinian economist Mohamed Mustafa. It also expressed  hope that the new cabinet would efficiently perform its  duties in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and enjoy the  support of the entire Palestinian population”(33).  

As Moscow was trying to forge Palestinian unity, its  relations with Israel continued to deteriorate. The Russian Deputy UN ambassador, Maria Zabolotskaya, cast doubt on the report of the UN Secretary General’s special representative for sexual violence in conflict, Pramila  Patten’s report on rapes by Hamas fighters during their attack on Israel on October 7th. Zabolotskaya, who had questioned Patten’s report on rapes by Russian soldiers in Ukraine(34), attacked her report on Hamas calling it a “half-truth which in no way gives a universal picture of what is  happening”(35).

In April, Russia was to face its most serious crisis of the war. Up until this time it had been protecting Hamas at the UN, denouncing Israeli activities in Gaza, and blaming the US for the war in Gaza, all the time trying to improve its position in the Global South at the expense of the United  States. In April, however, Iran and Israel directly attacked each other, raising the possibility of a wider war which could pull in the United States and cause a US-Iranian war, which would pose very difficult problems of choice for Moscow, given its close tie to Iran on which it continued to depend for  drones and missiles. Consequently, Russia sought to play  down the conflict(as did the US) and seemed satisfied by April 19th that it did not escalate into the wider Middle East  war which it may well have feared. 

Since the outbreak of the war on October 7th, as noted  above, Israel had expanded its targets in Syria in an effort to prevent Iran from opening yet another front against it, in addition to the war in Gaza, Hezbollah’s firing of missiles into northern Israel, and occasional Houthi rocket attacks on the southern Israeli city of Eilat. Israel’s targets escalated from Iranian arms convoys traveling through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and ammunition warehouses in  Damascus and elsewhere in the country, to strikes on  leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),  who were aiding Hezbollah in its ongoing military confrontation with Israel. The Israeli attacks reached a new high in intensity on April 1st when an Israeli attack killed IRGC Corps Commander Mohammed Zahedi in the annex to the Iranian embassy in Damascus along with 6 other IRGC officers. The Iranian leadership, led by hard-line President  Ebrahim Raisi, claiming that Iranian sovereign territory had been violated in the Israeli attack (a somewhat hypocritical claim given Iran’s record of disregarding the so-called diplomatic sanctity of embassies as in Iran’s seizure of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and its blowing up of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992) then launched a major attack on Israel consisting of some 300 drones and missiles on April 14th. Virtually all of the missiles and drones were shot down by Israel, the US and UK as well as by Jordan. Five days later Israel retaliated much more successfully, destroying a SAM-300 complex in Iran that was protecting an Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz.

In looking at Moscow’s response to the escalation between Israel and Iran, there are several things to note. First, as might be expected, Russia criticized Israel for its attack on the embassy annex while blaming the US as well(36). Then, when Iran retaliated with its major attack on Israel, Moscow urged Israel to stay calm. 

As the Russian ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, noted: 

“Let’s hope that the Israeli authorities will not go  headlong into further unwinding this dead end spiral and  stick to a reasonable, balanced approach. This is particularly  important after the Iranian side clearly stated that the  incident is over and that they are not going to take any  further action”(37). 

 This Russian message was echoed by Bogdanov in his meeting with Israel’s new ambassador to Russia, Simona Halperin. Bogdanov stated that there was a need for maximum restraint by all participants in the conflict(38). The  Russian warnings did not succeed in preventing the Israeli retaliatory attack on Iran which destroyed a SAM-300  complex that was guarding an Iranian nuclear installation at Natanz. However, Moscow must have been relieved that the Iranian leadership played down the Israeli attack and saw no need to escalate further. Still, the relative ease with which Israel had destroyed the Russian-built SAM-300 complex had to be of concern to both Russia and Iran because it  underlined Iran’s vulnerability. Nonetheless, following the  Israeli attack, tension eased and it appeared—at least in  the short run—that a more general Middle East war had been avoided, a situation that Moscow welcomed. 

Despite the easing of tension, Russian-Israeli relations  continued to deteriorate in April. In early April, Russia  supported the Palestinian Authority’s request to obtain full  membership in the UN—much to the displeasure of Israel— and even when the US vetoed the Palestinian request, Moscow promised to continue the effort to obtain full UN  membership for the Palestinians(39). 

A new low in the Russia-Israel relationship was reached on April 19th when Russia urged the UN to sanction Israel for its failure to  comply with a UNSC resolution (on which the U.S. had abstained) that called on Israel for a cease-fire during the  Moslem holy month of Ramadan. As might be expected, given Russian policy since the war broke out, Russia also condemned the U.S. for its aid to Israel. Russian UN ambassador Vasily Nabenziya made this very clear: “Unfortunately, Israel is openly ignoring Resolution 2728 with U.S. encouragement. [The U.S.] actually rushed to call this security council resolution “non-binding”. If the resolution  isn’t implemented, the security council is within its rights to  impose sanctions on those who violate and sabotage its  decisions”(40). 

The Russian call for sanctions against Israel is a useful  point of departure to draw some preliminary conclusions  about Russian policy toward the Israel-Hamas war from October 7,2023 to April 28,2024.


In analyzing Russian policy toward the first six months of the Israel-Hamas war, three main (if preliminary) conclusions can be drawn. First, the war led to a sharp deterioration of Russian-Israeli relations, although the two major things Israel wanted from its relationship with  Russia—freedom to fly through Syrian airspace to attack Iranian and Hezbollah positions, and the continued emigration of Russian Jews to Israel—remained in place. Second, Russia has benefitted, at least in the Global South, by its stance supporting the Palestinians in the face of Israeli  attacks in Gaza, even as the position of the US there has deteriorated because of US President Joe Biden’s support of Israel, something Moscow regularly emphasized in its  propaganda. Third, while Moscow has benefitted from the war, in part because US attention has been diverted from Ukraine, Russia’s influence on the diplomacy of the conflict has been quite limited, and Moscow has little to show for its numerous diplomatic initiatives in the war. 

The deterioration of relations between Israel and Russia during the war has been significant. Not only did Moscow legitimize the Hamas attack on Israel by inviting a Hamas delegation to Moscow only two weeks after the Hamas attack, it also protected Hamas by introducing UN Security Council Resolutions to end the war that made no mention of the Hamas attack while vetoing a U.S. UNSC resolution that mentioned Hamas. It also supported the South African effort to bring genocide charges against Israel at the International Court of Justice, downplayed Israeli claims that Hamas had sexually assaulted Israeli women during its October 7th attack, and called on the UN Security Council to sanction Israel for its actions in Gaza. Still, while Russian invective against Israel, sprinkled with a large dose of anti-semitism increased, Russia continued to allow Israeli war planes to fly through Syrian air space to attack Iranian and Hezbollah positions, and it also continued to permit Russian-Jewish emigration to Israel. In trying to explain Russian behavior, one can point to Moscow’s desire to maintain high-tech trade relations with Israel, and also its possible concern that with Assad’s still shaky control over Syria, Israel might move to help Assad’s enemies. 

Second, at least by default, Russia has benefitted in the Global South from the continued flow of US arms to Israel during the war, a policy that was unpopular in the Global South (except in India where the Modi regime is closely allied  to Israel) where the Palestinian issue has resonated. By  supplying humanitarian aid to Gaza and backing the Palestinian positions at the UN, Moscow could claim an improved position in the Global South even as it sought to conflate its war in Ukraine with the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Still, the Russian position was not without its  problems. Hamas is unpopular with the leaderships of a number of Arab states, which Moscow has been courting, such as Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Not to mention the clash between Israel and Iran in April 2024 had the potential of escalating into a full-scale war that would have threatened Russia’s ally Iran, especially if the U.S. got directly involved in the conflict.  

A third preliminary conclusion that could be drawn from this study is that Russia has had little influence over the events that transpired after the Hamas attack of October 7th. Thus, its call for an international conference to settle the war proved unsuccessful; the key diplomatic efforts to achieve a cease-fire were undertaken by the US, Egypt and Qatar, not Russia. Despite a major diplomatic effort, Moscow was unable to forge a reconciliation between Hamas and the  Palestinian Authority, and Russian was even unable to extract the Russian citizens who were held hostage by Hamas despite all that Russia had done diplomatically for the Palestinian organization. Finally, despite Moscow’s warnings, Israel attacked Iran directly, an event that also  showed the vulnerability of Russia’s SAM-300 system. 

In sum, in the first six months of the war it can be said that, while Russia may have gained politically from the war—primarily because of the close US-Israeli relationship—its  influence in the conflict was quite limited and the deterioration of Russian-Israeli relations may yet change the  Israeli position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  


  1.  See Robert O. Freedman, “Moscow and Jerusalem: A  Troubled 75 Year Relationship”, ISRAEL AFFAIRS (online)  Vol.23, No.3 (May 2023) pp.492-511 
  2. IBID 
  3. On the Hamas invitation to Moscow, see Robert O.  Freedman, “Can Russia be a Partner for the United  States in the Middle East?”, in NATO-AMERICAN  RELATIONS (ed. Aurel Braun) New York: Routledge,2008) pp. 125-129
  4. For a study of Russian policy toward the civil war in  Syria, and the opposition to Assad, see Robert O. Freedman, Russia and the Arab Spring” in THE ARAB  SPRING (ed. Mark Haas and David Lesch) (Boulder,  Colorado: Westview Press, 2017) pp. 241-271 
  5. See Robert O. Freedman, “Israel’s Tightrope Between  Russia and Ukraine”, MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY  (online)Fall 2022
  6. IBID 
  7. The data is from the Israeli Ministry of Aliyah  (Immigration) and Integration. Russian Jewish  immigration to Israel totaled 43,584 in 2022 and 32,307  in 2023. Preliminary data from 2024 indicate that a total  of 3,283 Russian Jews emigrated to Israel in January  and February 2024.  
  8. Freedman, “Israel’s Tightrope” Loc. Cit. 
  9. Russia was cooperating with Saudi Arabia and the  United Arab Emirates to keep oil prices up, and Putin  has solicited investments from both countries. See  “Putin Makes Rare Trip to Middle East to Meet with UAE  and Saudi Leaders” , AL-JAZEERA (online) 6 December  2023.
  10. See Robert O. Freedman, “Epilogue” in ISRAEL UNDER  NETANYAHYU(ed. Robert O. Freedman)(New  York:Routledge,2020) p. 296 
  11. See THE TIMES OF ISRAEL, “Russia to Open Embassy  Branch in Jerusalem as Part of Land Deal”, 16 July 2023
  12. Cited in Alan Cullison, “Hamas Attack Ends Entente  Between Russia and Israel”, WALL STREET JOURNAL 14  October 2023 
  13. Cited in INSTITUTE OF NATIONAL SECURITY  STUDIES(Israel)) report, “From Russia With Hate”, 16  October 2023 
  14. Cited in REUTERS report, “Does Russian President  Vladimir Putin Want to Turn the Gaza Conflict to his  Geopolitical Advantage?” 19 November 2023 
  15. Cited in TIMES OF ISRAEL report, “Israel Summons  Russian Ambassador Over Moscow’s Hosting of Hamas  Officials” 29 October 2023 
  16. See REPUBLIC.RU, “Calls to Expel Jews From Russia  and First Arson Attacks” 29 October 2023 [Translated in  CURRENT DIGEST OF THE RUSSIAN PRESS,Vol.75, Nos  44-45, p.8]
  17. Cited in Holly Ellyat, “Russia is Turning Increasngly  Hostile Toward Israel as it Picks Sides in the Middle East” ,  PRO(CNBC) 8 November 2023 
  18. Cited in Ksenia Svetlova, “Russia’s Priorities are Clear  After Netanyahu-Putin Call, and Israel Isn’t One of Them”,  TIMES OF ISRAEL 11 December 2023  
  19. Cited in Liza Rosovsky, “Netanyahu Slams Putin for  Russia’s Anti-Israel Stance, Iran Ties” , HAARETZ (online)  10 December 2023
  20. IBID 
  21. IBID 
  22. Cited in TASS report, “UN Court Should Recognize  Israel’s Activities in Gaza Strip as Genocide”, 25 January  2023 
  23. Cited in TASS report, “South Africa has Valid Reasons  to Pursue Legal Action Against Israel—Russian Diplomat”  18 January 2024 
  24. Cited in Peter Rutland, “Russia’s Framing of Anti-Israel  Sentiment Takes a Dark Detour at Holocaust Denial”, THE  CONVERSATION, 8 February 2024
  25. For examples of the USSR’s use of the Soviet Afro Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, see Robert O.  Freedman, MOSCOW AND THE MIDDLE EAST (Cambridge,UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991) pp.  45,210 and 290-91 
  26. Cited in TASS report, “Foreign Participants for Freedom  of Nations in Solidarity with Palestinians” 20 February  2021 
  27. Cited in Mehul Saivestava, “Rivel Palestinian Factions  Hold Moscow Talks” FINANCIAL TIMES, 1 March 2024 
  28. Cited in TASS report, “Lavrov Wishes Palestinian  President Success in Forming New Government”, 29  February 2024 
  29. Cited in TASS report, “Results of Palestinian Factions  meeting in Moscow May Lead to Progress”. 1 March 2024 
  30. Cited in REUTERS report, “Hamas Lashes Out at  Abbas’s Unilateral Designation of new Prime Minister”, 15  March 2024 
  31. Cited in Jack Khoury, “Fatah Says Hamas is  Negotiating with Israel to Protect its own Leaders” ,  HAARETZ (online) 16 March 2024
  32. Cited in TASS report,” Russia Hails Palestinian New  Technocratic Government” 15 March 2024 
  33. IBID 
  34. See “Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative  Maria Zabolotskaya at UNSC Briefing on the Issue of  Sexual Violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories” PERMANENT MISSION OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION TO  THE UNITED NATIONS, 11 March 2024 
  35. IBID. See also TIMES OF ISRAEL report, “Foreign  Ministry Summoned Russian Envoy Over Moscow’s Anti Israeli Rhetoric”, 11 April 2023 
  36. See, for example, TASS report, “Russia in Contact with  Iran After Israeli Strike on Iranian Consulate—Senior  Diplomat”, 11 April 224 
  37. Cited in TASS report, “Russia Urges Israel to Stay Calm  Amid Iranian Strike—Ambassador”, 15 April 2024 
  38. Cited in TASS report, “Russia Calls on Israel, Iran to  Show Maximum Restraint—MFA”, 18 April 2024. See also  RAND report, “Why Russia Doesn’t Want an Israeli-Iran  War” 16 April 2024
  39. Cited in TASS report, “Effort to Grant Full Membership  to Palestine will Continue—Russian Mission”, 18 April  2024 
  40. Cited in Aila Slisco, “Russia Calls on UN to Sanction   Israel”, NEWSWEEK (online) 19 April 2024 

RESEARCH NOTE: I am indebted to Dr. Kimberly Martin of  Barnard College and Dr. Ze’ev Khanin of Bar-Ilan University  for providing research materials for this paper. 

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