Even Lieberman's 'Special Ties' Couldn't Save Israel From Russia's Slap in the Face

Foreign Ministry strike that prevented Medvedev from visiting Israel kept Netanyahu from having to sweat through a meeting and dismiss Russia's promise to recognize independent Palestine.

The labor sanctions at the Foreign Ministry will go down in history as a rare case in which a labor dispute spared politicians diplomatic embarrassment.

Due to the sanctions, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made do with a visit to Jericho, where he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Medvedev took advantage of the visit to confirm Moscow's 1988 recognition of a Palestinian state. He declared that Russia will continue supporting the Palestinians' right to an independent state whose capital is East Jerusalem.

Medvedev and Abbas -AP

The strike spared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the need to sweat through a meeting with his Russian counterpart and try to dismiss Russia's promise to recognize an independent Palestine. It also spared Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman the questionable pleasure of having to explain how his "special ties" and common language with the Russians accords with the public slap in the face that Moscow gave Israel.

To be honest, Israel's government is used to blows from the Russians, even some below the belt. A few months ago, during a visit to Damascus, Medvedev found time to meet with Hamas' politburo chief, Khaled Meshal, a short while after Lieberman had visited Moscow.

One could also argue that the slap did not sting quite as much as the Palestinians would have liked, since the Soviet Union recognized Palestine 22 years ago. This followed the declaration of independence made by the Palestinian National Council in Algiers and the declaration by King Hussein of Jordan that the Hashemite Kingdom was relinquishing the West Bank.

But at that time, the Soviet Union was part of a group whose other members were all either Muslim countries or relatively unimportant states already known to be pro-Arab. Back then, the phrase "a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders whose capital is East Jerusalem" was considered by the rest of the world, and especially the United States and Europe, to be almost delusional, completely disconnected from reality.

Now Russia is part of the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, most of whose decisions are reached by consensus. Normally, its members are careful not to diverge from agreed policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But today, the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders, with agreed exchanges of territory, is considered by the entire world to be the sole formula for resolving the conflict.

It was just a matter of time before the epidemic of recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders went beyond the borders of Latin America. The only question was which country would be the first to join Brazil and its neighbors.

Now, the question is which will be the first European Union country to follow suit. Will it be Spain, France, Cyprus or Malta?

Another interesting question: Did Medvedev say what he did despite U.S. President Barack Obama, or did the latter hint to the Russians that he would not be sorry if they sent Netanyahu a message that the diplomatic impasse is not working in his favor? A partial answer to this will emerge in the coming days, when the U.S. decides whether to veto a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel's settlement policy.

The Arabs, it seems, prepared a brilliant trap for the Americans: They decided the Lebanese delegation would be the one to bring the resolution before the Security Council. The Americans surely realize that to veto a resolution by their ally, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, would cause rejoicing in Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's bunker. For such a veto, Israel will have to pay.

Netanyahu is following David Ben-Gurion's rule: It doesn't matter what the gentiles say; what matters is what the Jews do. But Netanyahu is no Ben-Gurion. And the gentiles are no longer the same gentiles.