Senior minister indicates Israel unlikely to expel Russian diplomats

Senior minister indicates Israel unlikely to expel Russian diplomats

With Russia in Israel's “backyard,” Jerusalem must do what is in its interest – not what is in the interests of others – regarding whether it should join other western countries in expelling Russian diplomats over the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, Construction Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Asked by The Jerusalem Post at a briefing sponsored by The Israel Project whether he thought Israel should join a long list of other western countries and expel Russian diplomats, Gallant said that Israel is not seen by the Russians as an enemy for a number of reasons.

“First of all because we share some ideas and interests,” said Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet who will speak at The Jerusalem Post’s conference in New York on April 29.

“Secondly, because there are more than a million immigrants who have come from Russia to Israel, and the Russian administration views them as citizens, or old citizens, or veterans of of Russia. And thirdly, we have to remember what are the proportions and what are the distances.”

For Israel, Gallant said, Russia is now in its backyard. And while Israel should “behave as part of the Western world,” it should also be proud “that we can negotiate, talk and live side-by-side with the Russians."

“This is what we are doing,” he continued, adding that so far Israel have maneuvered carefully and well in very complicated situation where the Russians “are here.”

Gallant said that the issue of expelling Russian diplomats has not been discussed by the security cabinet. The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, would not comment on whether Israel does intend to take actions against Russian diplomats in solidarity with the British, or whether it has been asked to do so.

In addition to Britain, another 23 countries have expelled some Russian diplomats, with the US expelling 60 diplomats on Monday. Of the 23 countries, 16 of them are EU countries. In addition to the US, the other non-EU countries to take this move are Canada, Ukraine Albania, Norway, Australia and Macedonia.

Among the EU countries who have, like Israel, not taken a similar move are Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Portugal Slovenia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Austria, Greece, Malta and Slovakia. There are currently 28 EU countries.

Last week Britain let Israel know that it was not pleased with the statement Jerusalem issued condemning the poison attack but which did not explicitly mention Russia. A statement put out by the British embassy said that Britain expects “strong statements of support from all our close partners, Israel included.”

Moscow, on the other hand, praised Israel for not being drawn into what it said was a hysterical anti-Russian campaign following the poisoning.

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