Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 57

Whatever the political motivations for his trip, Netanyahu appears to have tried during the talks in Moscow to convince Russian leaders that they would be better served economically to deal with Israel than with Iran. That point was made clear during an interview Netanyahu gave on the eve of his Russia visit. The Israeli premier was quoted then as saying that the millions of dollars Russia is currently earning thanks to its relations with Iran can in no way compare to the billions that it might be making by trading with Israel (Russian agencies, March 18). Israel has long tried to draw Russia away from Iran by offering the prospect of Israeli-Russian joint ventures in Israel’s vibrant high-technology sector. But Israeli leaders have also made it clear that those prospective joint economic activities–as well as an increased political role for Russia in the Middle East–depend on Moscow severing its military ties to Iran.

Although the question of Russian-Iranian cooperation apparently predominated in yesterday’s talks, the two sides reportedly also discussed a host of other international and bilateral issues. Among them was Israel’s mounting concern over an apparent growth of anti-Semitism in Russia. In remarks made on March 21 at the Choral Synagogue in the center of Moscow, Netanyahu told members of Russia’s Jewish community that anti-Semitism has emerged as a threat to the Russian nation as well as to Jews. “What starts with hatred of Jews will never stop with only Jews,” he was quoted as saying (Russian agencies, March 21).

Primakov, for his part, denounced anti-Semitism during his talks with Netanyahu yesterday. He repeated the message later in the day during a meeting with representatives of U.S. Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League. Primakov pledged to fight anti-Semitism in Russia, and described that as the official policy of the Russian government (Russian agencies, March 22). Anti-Semitism is another issue likely to be raised during this week’s talks in Washington.