56

The US and more than 20 other countries have expelled Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. As of this writing, Israel has not expelled any Russian diplomats in response to this particular incident.

Given that Israel is considered a US ally and is a major recipient of the US foreign aid, what would be the possible reasons behind Israel's not joining in the effort to punish Russia?

  • 19
    Three close votes and no comments. I think this question is a good one the answers are very interesting. Any suggestions for improvement are welcomed (close votes / downvotes alone are not very helpful). – Alexei Apr 1 '18 at 20:37
  • 6
    @AndrewGrimm - yes, but "not a good faith effort" is very ambiguous and my opinion is that it can easily be abused. While not expelling can be seen as a "bad thing", question does not say that: it merely express: 20+ Western countries (including US) expelled Russia diplomats. Israel is an important US ally. Why not join the effort? The good answers show that it is not that simple and many politics newbies can learn from them. – Alexei Apr 2 '18 at 4:55
  • 48
    @AndrewGrimm I am curious why do you believe it's not asked in good faith? The OP doesn't make any accusing statements against Israel, hasn't included any loaded phrases, isn't trying to push an agenda. It's a legitimate question on why is a country X which is generally aligned to Country Y not siding with that Country especially when it is a strategic partner of Y? Maybe we should stop treating every Israel related question with extra-care gloves? I still want to learn your reasons for why you think it's in bad faith. – NSNoob Apr 2 '18 at 8:10
  • 17
    @AndrewGrimm: "the phrase 'Given that Israel is considered a US ally' implies that it isn't really an ally" No, it literally outright states the opposite. You're being ridiculous. – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 3 '18 at 10:02
  • 5
    @chirlu - Is it because it's a reasonable and intelligent comment? – Hannover Fist Apr 4 '18 at 15:38
85

Israel has a complicated relationship with Russia, which it doesn't want to hurt.

Russia is a major supporter of Assad's regime in Syria, which is aligned with Iran and Hezbollah, Israel's bitter enemies (see here). Yet, Russia does not interfere when Israel operates in Syria against them.

Russia is also a significant importer of Israeli produce, as well as a significant source for tourism in Israel.

All in all, Israel has a lot to lose from upsetting Russia, and little to gain.

  • 29
    "All in all, Israel has a lot to lose from upsetting Russia, and little to gain." ... This could be said of most, if not all, countries that actually expelled diplomats. The US, for example, needs Russia in the war on terrorism, eradication of ISIS, and in dealings with Syria, Iran and possibly North Korea. What does expelling diplomats accomplish for the US? Very little, if anything, in the grand scheme of things. Still, good answer in my view +1. – Michael_B Apr 1 '18 at 10:51
  • 21
    @Michael_B All the countries who responded had much more to lose wrt the UK more so than they did Russia, even if they are estranged from the European Union - Russian economic power pales in comparison to the UK. The necessity of Russian aid in fighting terrorism is severely overblown and their actions make them just as liable to be a perpetrator, so sharing too much information is probably unwise. Even in Syria, I doubt they really could stop a committed US military from overthrowing or crippling Assad’s regime. – TravMatth Apr 1 '18 at 14:47
  • 10
    I don't see any chance of the UK risking economic relations with any of these countries, should they not have joined in on the diplomatic sanctions. This is especially true in a post-Brexit era. It's just not worth it. It looks more like NATO trying to prove its relevance by rallying around a member state (the UK) and targeting its original foe. – Michael_B Apr 1 '18 at 14:58
  • 13
    Politics, Cold War and the heritage of Israel-USSR relationship aside, the Jewish residents in the land of Israel have always been culturally Russophile. There are over 1M Russian citizens in Israel and many more whose forefathers were born in the Russian Empire. While the history of Jews in Russia was not always smooth politically and religiously, there was a lot of cultural exchange. It has not been mentioned here that the Russian government would send fire-fighting aircrafts to help Israel fight large wildfires. The US government would not; it only offered to rent private American planes. – rapt Apr 1 '18 at 22:03
  • 7
    Trump expelled all the diplomats but informed Russia they could appoint a whole bunch of new ones right away. It was an empty gesture. – Shadur Apr 2 '18 at 12:01
77

In January 2010, a team of Israeli government agents travelled to Dubai, UAE and, in a highly-sophisticated operation, assassinated a senior official of the terrorist organization Hamas.

Dubai police were able to describe the operation by piecing together surveillance videos, which were released to the public.

Israel was subject to widespread international condemnation for the attack. Many countries responded to Israel with warnings, threats, arrest warrants and/or diplomatic expulsions.

One country with no reaction was Russia.

Now that Russia has conducted a similar operation, Israel may be acting in-kind.

References:


Note: Both Israel and Russia have denied involvement in these operations. Nothing has been proven in a court of law. Therefore, the charges against Israel and Russia are mere allegations.

37

The action against Russian Diplomats is being led by the UK, not the US. UK and Israel are not particularly close.

The other countries that have supported the UK are Countries with a close relationship with the UK: EU allies, Commonwealth allies or Nato allies. Israel is none of these.

Israel has a complex relationship with Russia. It's not clear that the UK or her allies even asked Israel to act against Russia.

  • 3
    The UK also isn't very close with Albania or Moldova. (Or the EU. *baddum-tsh*) – David Richerby Apr 1 '18 at 16:25
  • 3
    @David Richerby: Albania is a NATO member. – chirlu Apr 1 '18 at 17:35
  • 7
    @DavidRicherby I think the UK is much, much closer to the EU than Israel. The British-Israeli relationship is complicated and old. The EU relationship, while strained, is still critical to the UK’s economy. – Tim Apr 1 '18 at 18:32
  • 2
    @Tim I think I made it clear that I was being ironic about the relationship between the UK and the EU. – David Richerby Apr 2 '18 at 15:56
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby Not ironic, just humorous. – Jeffiekins Apr 2 '18 at 21:58
22

Israel's prime minister has a thin majority which includes the far-right and Russian-speaking Lieberman, who is minister of defense. His party historically gets most votes from Russians in Israel, who like Putin.

Since Lieberman entered the government around 2009, Israel has cozied up a lot with Russia.

Some context:

  • And Putin is, for personal reasons, rather more pro-Israel than one would imagine he would be for solely professional reasons. He even visited once. I imaging they don't want to mess that up, either. – Jeffiekins Apr 2 '18 at 22:00
  • 2
    @Jeffiekins, Putin visited UK twice. That didn't prevent UK from expelling Russian diplomats. – grovkin Apr 3 '18 at 17:43
  • Do you have any source to support the assertion majority of Russian-speaking Israelis are sympathetic to Putin? It seems far-fetched, but it maybe true nonetheless. So is this from your personal experience, an anecdotal account, something evidence-based, or just your assumption? – grovkin May 23 '18 at 18:33
  • @grovkin It's widely and systematically reported by international media, especially when there are elections. I didn't keep references. Do these suffice? «Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity with Russian Israelis» jta.org/2000/07/19/archive/… ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4198346,00.html news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1369709.stm timesofisrael.com/… – Nemo May 23 '18 at 19:16
  • 1
    @Nemo, not really. In fact, it seems like commentary on Trump's election, but the little nuggets like "you can't stop being a soviet citizen" seem bizarre (because they were made in 2012). The whole idea that Russian immigrants don't like liberal policies because they "don't like freedom" is just too much out there. In fact, it seems openly insulting to them and dismissive of their political views. As for the topic at hand, of the 3 articles not a one stated that a majority of the Russian-speaking Israelis sympathize with Putin. They just try to dismiss them as too right-wing. – grovkin May 24 '18 at 2:57
15

Israel (along with North Korea, South Sudan and Egypt) is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Since the UK is treating this as a CWC issue, Israel might not want to bring attention to its own status.

3

After reading all the other answers and researching the Skripal incident a bit more, one possible explanation of Israel's "inaction" has occurred to me:

Israel (Mossad) knows that the Russians (the government of the Russian Federation to be exact) was not involved.

This article (pro-Russia source warning!) suggests a possibility of a third party (other than Russia or the UK) being involved in the assassination. They mention Ukraine, for example.

  • 14
    Do you have any hint than Mossad might have special information about the Skripal case, or is it pure speculation ? – Evargalo Apr 3 '18 at 7:58
  • 2
    Everything is speculation at this point, different people just choose to believe different speculations. It seems not unlikely that the answer is perfectly spot-on, except maybe that "knows" is a strong word and "believes" would be better. – Tom Apr 3 '18 at 12:02
  • @Evargalo I have no information from Mossad, but I am sure the Israeli government has and has acted accordingly. – ebhh2001 Apr 3 '18 at 12:55
  • 5
    Even if the Mossad had information pointing away from Russia I'd expect Israel to act as if that information did not exist, unless it was common knowledge. Else 1. Russia/anyone could guess what sources had leaked, and 2. if no one else knows this hypothetical information then Israel's reaction would seem out of place publicly, other nations and the public can only judge by what they themselves know. – kleineg Apr 3 '18 at 16:37
  • @kleineg of course. Unless there were other possible explanations available as a cover for the inaction such as the ones offered in the other answers. In that case, Israel cold do the "right" thing (not expel diplomats) without revealing much. – ebhh2001 Apr 3 '18 at 18:39

You must log in to answer this question.

protected by Community Apr 3 '18 at 15:10

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .