Many countries (Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia, Honduras, maybe others) have recalled their ambassadors from Israel. I cannot find any country that has recalled their ambassador to Russia (some have closed their consulates, but it seems that all still have their Moscow-based embassies), despite all the sanctions etc.

What is the reason for this difference? Does it essentially mean that all sanctions were just window-dressing? Or is there a "good" reason? Or do I miss some information?

  • 21
    One can only guess, but: reuters.com/world/…. I suppose more countries can afford to close communications with Israel than with Russia.
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 2, 2023 at 20:44
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    Note that there are different levels of diplomatic disapproval. You can recall your ambassador (France did that w. Australia iirc concerning the nuclear subs). That's pretty high level already, but the expectation is that they will eventually be sent back. You can however also cut off diplomatic relations (i.e. take steps to close your embassy). Which is what Bolivia seems to have done. But the others did "just" a recall. theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/31/… Nov 2, 2023 at 23:19
  • 3
    Probably the spat between Israel and the UN chief is instructive too. The reasons were probably similar in some of those non-Arab countries. For Colombia in particular it wasn't cheap to do that, as they depend on Israeli weapons, and Israel promptly retaliated on that front. Nov 3, 2023 at 0:38
  • 6
    just looked up, Bolivia also maintains good relations with Syria. fascinating. Nov 3, 2023 at 4:12
  • 3
    South Africa has only consultation service office, since 2017 when diplomacy communication was broken because of Palatine case too Nov 4, 2023 at 15:56

5 Answers 5


Letting aside questions of ideological affinities or opposition. And noting that only Bolivia has broken off relations entirely.

To state the obvious, while Israel is a relatively influential country for its size, it's still not very big. Bolivia is far away from it and has a history of disagreeing with Israel depending on who is in the government.

Bolivia previously broke off relations with Israel in 2009 after the county’s invasion of the Gaza Strip but re-established ties in 2020 under the rightwing president Jeanine Áñez.

Cutting ties with Russia on the other hand puts you in the crosshairs of a nation with a veto vote at the UN. That could, at some point, come back to bite you (say if your neighbor attacked you and you were hoping they'd get censured by the UN). Or, if, hypothetically speaking, you were trying to get back your oceanic access thru the UN.

It's a much more risky decision to make.

Let's put it another way. Suppose Canada decided to close its Myanmar embassy. Most likely: shrugs all around. Suppose Canada's government decided to do the same with Russia: you'd have tons of objectors, not least because embassies are important even, or especially with, adversarial relations. At least when the relations matter.

  • 4
    I'm not sure one can "let aside questions of ideological affinities or opposition". They are no less important in this case.
    – Zeus
    Nov 2, 2023 at 23:35
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    Because I did not want to get into Bolivia's motivations for cutting those ties. Only that they had little risk from doing it. The main country to likely really object to this step is the US, which they already don't get along with. Someone else can talk up affinities or oppositions, that wasn't my point: this action comes for cheap against Israel. And would not be the case with Russia. Nov 2, 2023 at 23:37
  • Until very recently, Israel also had a guaranteed veto vote at the UN, via the USA. Nov 5, 2023 at 0:06

There are multiple reasons for the different treatment of Russia and Israel by other countries.

  • Russia is a greater economic power than Israel. Israel has GDP of only $522 billions, while Russia has $1,862 billions. See: List of countries by GDP (nominal) - Wikipedia
  • Russia is a greater political power than Israel. For example, Russia has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
  • Russia is a greater military power than Israel. Russia has a an enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons, compared to Israel, whose precise nuclear status is in question, but is in any case dwarfed by Russian arsenal.
  • Russia is territorially larger than Israel by orders of magnitude, and thus has many more neighbors that it invaded in the past and threatens to invade in the future.
  • Russia exports more products and raw materials than Israel that are vital for the economies of other countries. This includes such important (often critical) commodities as oil, gas, food and fertilizer.
  • Antisemitism is pervasive world-wide, and is associated with (although not the same as) anti-Israel movements around the world. There is little, if any, comparable anti-Russian or anti-Russia movement around the world. Nobody is calling "apartheid" the fact that Russia is a country with a Russian people majority, where the official state language is Russian.

Needless to say, not all reasons apply to all countries equally.


Palestinian-Americans and their supporters march as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas continues, in downtown Chicago, October 8, 2023.(Eric Cox/Reuters)

'Free Palestine From the River to the Sea' Means Genocide Against Jews | National Review, By Philip Klein, October 25, 2023

The economy of Russia has gradually transformed from a planned economy into a mixed market-oriented economy.[28] It has enormous natural resources, particularly oil and natural gas.[29] It is the world's 11th-largest economy by nominal GDP, and 6th-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP).[5] Due to a volatile currency exchange rate, Russia's GDP as measured in dollars fluctuates sharply.[30] Russia's membership to the WTO was accepted in 2011.

Russia's vast geography is an important determinant of its economic activity, with the country holding a large share of the world's natural resources.[31] It has been widely described as an energy superpower;[32] as it has the world's largest natural gas reserves,[33] 2nd-largest coal reserves,[34] 8th-largest oil reserves,[35] and the largest oil shale reserves in Europe.[36] It is the world's leading natural gas exporter,[37] the 2nd-largest natural gas producer,[38] and the 2nd-largest oil exporter,[39] and producer.[40] Russia's foreign exchange reserves are the world's 4th-largest.[41] It has a labour force of roughly 70 million people, which is the world's 7th-largest.[42] Russia is the world's 3rd-largest exporter of arms.[43] The oil and gas sector accounted up to roughly 40% of Russia's federal budget revenues, and up to 60% of its exports in 2019.[44] Russia has the world's 5th-largest number of billionaires.[45]
In 2019, the country was the 3rd world producer of gold;[189] 2nd worldwide producer of platinum;[190] 4th worldwide producer of silver;[191] 9th largest world producer of copper;[192] 3rd largest world producer of nickel;[193] 6th largest world producer of lead;[194] 9th largest world producer of bauxite;[195] 10th largest world producer of zinc;[196] 2nd worldwide producer of vanadium;[197] 2nd largest world producer of cobalt;[198] 5th largest world producer of iron ore;[199] 7th largest world producer of boron;[200] 9th largest world producer of molybdenum;[201] 13th largest world producer of tin;[202] 3rd largest world producer of sulfur;[203] 4th largest world producer of phosphate;[204] 8th largest world producer of gypsum;[205] in addition to being the world's 10th largest producer of salt.[206] It was the world's 6th largest producer of uranium in 2018.[207]
It is the world's second-largest exporter of arms, behind only the United States.

Economy of Russia - Wikipedia

Starting in the 1990s, some scholars have advanced the concept of new antisemitism, coming simultaneously from the left, the right, and radical Islam, which tends to focus on opposition to the creation of a Jewish homeland in the State of Israel,[140] and they argue that the language of anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel are used to attack Jews more broadly. In this view, the proponents of the new concept believe that criticisms of Israel and Zionism are often disproportionate in degree and unique in kind, and they attribute this to antisemitism.[141]

Jewish scholar Gustavo Perednik posited in 2004 that anti-Zionism in itself represents a form of discrimination against Jews, in that it singles out Jewish national aspirations as an illegitimate and racist endeavor, and "proposes actions that would result in the death of millions of Jews".[141] It is asserted that the new antisemitism deploys traditional antisemitic motifs, including older motifs such as the blood libel.[140]

Antisemitism - Wikipedia

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    I'm actually surprised the GDPs are that close - considering the size difference Israel could fit into Russia nearly 800 times but Russia's GDP is less than 4 times larger. Not that this changes the answer however. Nov 6, 2023 at 10:13

Because developed nations generally don't like cutting ties entirely

As an example, the US has embassies in every major nation in the world with the exception of:

  1. Afghanistan - temporarily cut ties due to Taliban seizing power. No other countries recognize Taliban as legitimate just yet, so the US is not alone in this regard.
  2. Iran - cut ties due to the 1980 hostage crisis. Iran isn't particularly interested in restoring normal relations, as far as I understand.
  3. North Korea - highly strained relations since the Korean War but the US is constantly trying to re-establish normal relations.

Similarly the UK has relations with almost every nation in the world. It last cut ties with a nation in 1982 when it had a war with Argentina, setting a high bar for what it takes to break off diplomatic relations. Same goes for Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland and other developed nations. They generally see cutting ties as a measure of last resort, rather than something to be done casually whenever a diplomatic dispute arises.

Why have more countries cut the diplomatic ties with Israel than with Russia?

Because Russia's opponents are mostly developed nations and Israel's opponents are mostly developing nations. Diplomacy standards are lower for developing nations so they're happy to go ahead and cut ties with Israel.


All countries that have cut diplomatic ties with Israel have stated why they have done so. For example, Bolivian Minister of Presidency Maria Nela Prada accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity:

She said the South American country accuses Israel of committing crimes against humanity and “demanded” an end to attacks on the Gaza Strip, “which have already caused thousands of civilian deaths and the displacement of Palestinians.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani stated that Bolivia

"decided to break diplomatic relations with the Israeli state in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive taking place in the Gaza Strip as well as the threat to international peace and security"

According to the Turkish foreign ministry, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel due to the

"unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Gaza caused by the continuing attacks by Israel against civilians and Israel’s refusal of calls for a ceasefire and the continuous and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid"

Jordan recalled its ambassador over the "unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe" it said Israel caused.

Chile's president accused Israel of committing "genocide" and "crimes against humanity", Colombia's president accused it of committing a "massacre of the Palestinian people", and Honduras's of causing "the serious humanitarian situation the civilian Palestinian population is suffering in the Gaza Strip". Chile's president accused Israel of committing "genocide" and "crimes against humanity", Colombia's president accused it of committing a "massacre of the Palestinian people", and Honduras's of causing "the serious humanitarian situation the civilian Palestinian population is suffering in the Gaza Strip". And just today South Africa recalled it's ambassador over "the atrocities and genocide of the Israeli government".

So the reasons for countries recalling ambassadors and breaking diplomatic ties is because they think Israel is committing grave violations of international law and is causing unprecedented levels of suffering for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Why these countries have not cut ties with Russia is more difficult to answer because countries generally don't state why they don't cut diplomatic ties. Presumably they seek to be consistent (treat everyone alike) and thus think that Israel's war crimes is worse and is causing more suffering to Gazans than Russia is causing to Ukrainians.

According to UN estimates the number of confirmed civilian casualties in Gaza and Ukraine is comparable:

enter image description here

The total number of civilian casualties on both sides may be much larger and is of course growing every day. The rate with which civilian life is lost due to war is far greater in Gaza than in Ukraine and may partially explain these countries responses.


I think one main reason is the number of civilian casualties caused by each war.


Russian invasion of Ukraine from 24 February 2022 to 30 June 2023 (491 days) has caused 25,170 civilian casualties, including 9,177 killed and 15,993 injured. Source

I calculate 18.7 killed/day


War in Gaza has caused so far since 7th October (27 days) 8,805 have been killed and some 22,240 have been injured. Source

I calculate 326.11 killed/day

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    This casualty number does not include Israeli civilians injured or killed, only the number Hamas-run Ministry of Health reported of Gazan Civilians killed and injured.
    – Dent7777
    Nov 3, 2023 at 15:32
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    I understand why numbers from Hamas-run Ministry of Health might sound as untrustworthy, but remember, Gaza is one of the most dense populated areas in the world, and people have no where to flee.
    – Mocas
    Nov 3, 2023 at 15:37
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    How does this help answering the question from this answer's point of view?
    – Mocas
    Nov 3, 2023 at 16:48
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    -1 because most civilian casualties in the Ukrainian war happened in the very beginning, so this calculation makes no sense. Nov 3, 2023 at 21:07
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    @JonathanReez Still, in the first 27 days Israel killed approximately twice as many Ukrainians were killed in the first month by Russia. statista.com/statistics/1318455/ukraine-war-casualties-monthly . Do you think the rate Palestinians being killed is going to slow down if the war continues?
    – Mocas
    Nov 3, 2023 at 22:36

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