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Russia sides with Hamas, marking policy shift

 November 4, 2023

Russia recently took issue with Israel's right to defend itself, marking a significant policy shift.

Amid escalating tensions, Russia has taken a strikingly different stance on Israel's right to self-defense, complicating years of diplomatic efforts to foster better relations between the two nations.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, stated that as an "occupying power," Israel does not possess this right, though he conceded Israel could combat terrorism. This declaration not only aligns Moscow closer to the positions of Hamas and Iran but also illustrates a potential reorientation of Russian foreign policy interests away from Western alliances and towards the East and the Arab world, as reported by Fox News.

Distancing from the West

Nebenzya said:

The only thing [the West] can muster is continued pronouncements about Israel’s supposed right to self-defense. Although, as an occupying power, it does not have that power.

Western nations have frequently backed Israel's right to protect itself, a position that Russia has begun to question sharply.

Nebenzya criticized what he perceives as Western hypocrisy, pointing to their selective response to Palestinian casualties compared to their reaction to the conflict in Ukraine.

His words reflect a broader Russian critique of Western policies and highlight a growing divergence between Russian and Western perspectives on international conflicts.

Putin's muted response to a recent attack on Israel by Hamas suggests cooling relations between Moscow and Jerusalem.

The New York Times interprets this silence as indicative of the current state of Russo-Israeli relations. Moreover, Russia's meeting with Hamas and Iranian representatives, focused on stopping "Zionist crimes," underscores a significant shift in Moscow's policy.

Rebekah Koffler, a strategic military intelligence analyst, argues that Russia has now openly sided with entities labeled as terrorists by many, including Israel and its allies. This marks a reversal from over two decades of Russian foreign policy which generally supported Israel.

Implications for global relations

Putin's foreign policy shift could have significant implications, potentially undoing years of progress in combating radical extremism. It may also play into increasing anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiments globally.

Analysts suggest that this policy change could score Russia diplomatic points with Arab nations while simultaneously serving as retribution for Israel's support of Ukraine.

At the same time, domestic tensions within Russia have also escalated.

A disturbing incident in the Russian region of Dagestan featured a large crowd, spurred by antisemitic sentiments, storming an airport based on rumors of an inbound flight from Israel.

This alarming episode ended in clashes with law enforcement, multiple injuries, and numerous arrests.

Commenting on this, John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, described Putin's attempt to pin the violence on Ukraine and Western intelligence as "classic Russian rhetoric."

Concerns are growing that such incidents could herald a return to darker times of widespread antisemitism in Russia.

Israel's diplomatic tightrope

Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been attempting to navigate a delicate balance between Russia and the West.

Netanyahu's administration has been cautious in its response to Russia's actions, particularly regarding the invasion of Ukraine.

While aligning with Western allies to condemn the invasion through U.N. resolutions, Israel was initially hesitant to provide military support to Ukraine.

This balance was eventually upset by mounting Western pressure, leading to Israel's decision to sell defensive military equipment to Ukraine.

Despite potential fallout with Moscow, Israel's move was seen as a commitment to its Western alliances and a stance against aggression.


  • Russia's challenge to Israel's right to self-defense.
  • Moscow's alignment with entities opposed to Israeli policies.
  • Implications for Russian domestic policy and the potential for increased antisemitism.
  • Israel's precarious position between maintaining ties with both Russia and Western allies.
  • The broader impact of this development on the fight against extremism and on global diplomacy.