Israel Downgrades Rank of Rep at Putin's WW2 Event

Instead of a delegation headed by a minister, Israel will send its ambassador to Moscow to attend the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory. Sources in Jerusalem believe move linked to Russia's decision to lift ban of missile sales to Iran.

Kobi Gideon / GPO

Israel is reducing the rank of the representative it is sending to the May 9 ceremony to be held by Russian President Vladimir Putin at Red Square to mark 70 years since the Allied triumph over Nazi Germany, a senior Jerusalem official said.

The official said that instead of a delegation headed by Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, Israel will be represented by Ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender.

According to the senior officials, over the past two weeks there had been several discussions about the Israeli delegation to the event. Although a seemingly technical issue, the tension between Russia and the United States over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has turned it into a sensitive diplomatic matter that required the involvement of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

At first it was decided to send an Israeli representative at a level higher than that being sent by the United States or the European Union, but not Lieberman himself. Instead of Lieberman, Landver was chosen to lead the delegation. That decision prevailed as late as Thursday night.

But over the weekend, things changed, and on Sunday a decision was made to send a lower-ranking representative, whose diplomatic standing would be identical to that of the top U.S. and EU delegates. As a result, Golender will head the delegation.

Reuters

The reason for this decision isn’t totally clear. Senior officials in Jerusalem assume the decision not to send a minister was the result of Russia’s move a few days ago to remove obstacles to the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran.

At Sunday morning’s weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his criticism of the Russian decision, stressing that “Israel regards it with the utmost gravity.” He added that Russia had made the decision on the missiles, “at a time when Iran is increasing its aggression in the region and around all of the State of Israel’s borders.”

The United States, EU members and many other Western nations had decided to send low-level representatives to the Moscow ceremony next month to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and the aid it is providing to Ukrainian separatists.

This partial boycott is a blow to Putin, for whom the ceremony was meant to be an international demonstration of Russia’s strength. Without Western leaders, Putin will be reduced to sitting in the VIP stands with the leaders of countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Czech President Milos Zeman will be in Moscow to celebrate the anniversary despite American disapproval, but will not attend the Red Square ceremony.