Israel–Russia relations

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Israel–Russia relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and Russia



Israel–Russia relations refers to the bilateral foreign relations between the two countries, Israel and Russia. Russia has an embassy in Tel Aviv and a consulate in Haifa. Israel has an embassy in Moscow and a consulate-general (to open) in Yekaterinburg.

Russia is a member of the Quartet on the Middle East. For many years, Israel was a sanctuary for many Russian Jews. This was especially the case during the Aliyah in the 70s and the Aliyah in the 1990s.

Israel is also part Russophone. Russian is now the third most widely spoken first language in Israel, (after Hebrew and Arabic), and has the third largest number of Russian speakers outside of former Soviet countries, and the highest as a proportion of the total population.[1]


The Soviet period[edit]

From late 1944, Joseph Stalin adopted a pro-Zionist foreign policy, apparently believing that the new country would be socialist and would speed the decline of British influence in the Middle East.[2] Accordingly, in November 1947, the Soviet Union, together with the other Soviet bloc countries voted in favor of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine,[3] which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. On May 17, 1948, three days after Israel declared its independence, the Soviet Union officially granted de jure recognition of Israel,[4] becoming only the second country to recognise the Jewish state (preceded only by the United States' de facto recognition) and the first country to grant Israel de jure recognition.

Israeli ambassador to the Soviet Union Golda Meir surrounded by crowd of 50,000 Jews near Moscow Choral Synagogue on the first day of Rosh Hashanah in 1948.

Golda Meir was appointed Israel's minister plenipotentiary to the Soviet Union, with her term beginning on 2 September 1948 and ending in March, 1949.[5] During her brief stint in the USSR, Meir attended Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at the Moscow Choral Synagogue.[6]

In addition to the diplomatic support, arms from Czechoslovakia, part of the Soviet bloc, were crucial to Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. During the war, the Soviet Union supported Israel when it was attacked by Arab countries that opposed the 1947 United Nations General Assembly resolution for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

A major episode in the Soviet relation to the Arab–Israeli conflict was the Suez Crisis, with Egypt negotiating an arms deal with communist Czechoslovakia in September 1955, thereby ending Egypt's reliance on Western arms. Later, other members of the Warsaw Pact also sold arms to Egypt and Syria. In practice, all sales from the Eastern Bloc were authorized by the Soviet Union, as an attempt to increase Soviet influence over the Middle East. Political relations between the two countries remained poor throughout the Cold War, with the Soviet Union helping Arab states such as Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Algeria and Iraq improve their military capabilities by providing state-of-the-art weaponry and training.

Paul Johnson and other historians argue that November 10, 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 that labelled "Zionism" as "racism" was orchestrated by the USSR. It was rescinded by the Resolution 4686 in December 1991, which coincided with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

After the Fall of Communism[edit]

The USSR resumed diplomatic relations with Israel only in 1991. The popular journalist Alexander Bovin became the first Soviet ambassador to Israel after the resumption of the relations; after the dissolution of the USSR later the same year, he continued to serve as Russia's ambassador to Israel.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union caused a very large immigration wave of Jews from Soviet states. Due to demand from the new immigrants, many Russian language newspapers appeared, and with the development of the multichannel television in Israel during the 1990s, many Russian channels started being rebroadcast in Israel. In November 2002, a new Israeli-Russian channel, Israel Plus, emerged.

On October 19, 1999, Defense Minister of China, General Chi Haotian, after meeting with Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass in Damascus, Syria, to discuss expanding military ties between Syria and China, then flew directly to Israel and met with Ehud Barak, the then Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel where they discussed military relations. Among the military arrangements was a 1 billion dollar Israeli Russian sale of military aircraft to China, which were to be jointly produced by Russia and Israel.[7]

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Vladimir Putin meeting in Israel

In 2006, Israeli troops found evidence of Russian-made Kornet-E and Metis-M anti-tank systems in Hezbollah's possession in southern Lebanon. In 2007, in response to accusations that it was supplying terrorist groups with weapons, Russia said it was conducting inspections of Syrian weapons storage facilities to prevent the weapons from reaching unintended customers. This strained the already-deteriorating relations between Russia and Israel.[8]

Russia planned to sell advanced surface to air missiles to neighboring countries,[9] and condemned Israel's actions in the Gaza War.[10][11] Russia also sent 60 tons of tent, medicines, food and other humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.[12][13]

In 2011, Putin said: "Israel is, in fact, a special state to us. It is practically a Russian-speaking country. Israel is one of the few foreign countries that can be called Russian-speaking. It's apparent that more than half of the population speaks Russian."[14] Putin additionally claimed that Israel could be considered part of the Russian cultural world, and contended that "songs which are considered to be national Israeli songs in Israel are in fact Russian national songs." He further stated that he regarded Russian-speaking Israeli citizens as his compatriots.[15]

In August 2014, Russia began increasing fruit imports from Israel, after banning food imports from the EU, Norway, United States, Canada and Australia.[16]

In October 2014, India and Israel started to export meat to Russia.[17]

Expatriate communities[edit]

Russian citizens living in Israel[edit]

A significant number of Russian citizens live in Israel. During Russian elections, the Russian government sets up polling stations across many Israeli cities as well as smaller towns, in order to enable the Russian citizens who are living in Israel to cast their vote. During the 2012, Russian Presidential elections, hundreds of thousands of Israelis cast their vote.[18]

Victory Day in Israel[edit]

Putin meets with Red Army veterans in Israel.

Israel hosts the most extensive Victory Day celebrations outside of the former USSR.[19] Due to the large number of Red Army veterans who retired to Israel from FSU countries, the Russian government and military regularly send delegations to meet with the Red Army veterans associations in Israel, as well as to take part in the annual Victory Day events.[20]

Israeli community of Moscow[edit]

Moscow has the largest Israeli expatriate community in the world, with 80,000 Israeli citizens living in the city as of 2014, almost all of them native Russian-speakers.[21][22] Many Israeli cultural events are hosted for the community, and many live part of the year in Israel. (To cater to the Israeli community, Israeli cultural centres are located in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg.)[23] There are 60 flights a week between Tel Aviv and Moscow.[24]

Military collaboration[edit]

In 2004, a three-way deal was signed between Israel, Russia and India: Israel supplied the $1.1 billion EL/W-2090 radar to the Indian Air Force, with the radar fitted onto the Ilyushin Il-76 platform by Russia.[25]

On 6 September 2010, Russia and Israel signed a five-year military agreement.[26][27]


In April 2009, Russia purchased the first package of drones from Israel (the Bird Eye-400, eight I-View Mk150 and two Searcher Mk.2 UAVs). The deal was worth $53 million.[28]

In a second deal, at the end of 2009, Russia purchased an additional 36 drones from Israel, in a deal worth $100 million.[29]

In October 2010, Russia purchased an additional $400 million of drones from Israel Aerospace Industries. The Israeli drones are to be assembled in Russia.[30] The production of the Russian-Israeli drones began in 2012, with delivery to the Russian military scheduled for 2014.[31]

As well as canceling it's drone deal with Ukraine to not anger Russia, over the 2014 Ukrainian Crisis. [32]

Russian Oil Supplies to Israel[edit]

As of 2014, Russia is Israel's largest supplier of crude oil (alongside Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan).[33]

Israel-Russia Visa-Free Agreement[edit]

In 2008, Israel and Russia signed the Visa-Free agreement, allowing mutual visa-free travel between the two countries. Immigrants from Russia and other former Soviet republics account for a significant proportion of Israel's citizens, meaning that visits to friends and relatives in Russia are likely to be facilitated.[34]

Customs Union Talks[edit]

Israel plans to enter a free-trade agreement with Russia. The Customs Union, bringing together Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, and Israel have launched an exploratory committee to study the prospects for the creation of a free trade zone, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC - a single permanent regulatory body of the Customs Union) reported in March 2014.[35]

Encrypted communication line[edit]

Russia and Israel have agreed to install a direct encrypted communication network, to facilitate communications between the Russian President and Israeli Prime Minister. One analyst says: "Russia feels very close to the Israeli leadership... The Russians want to speak to Israel without anyone eavesdropping."[36]

Scientific Collaboration Agreements[edit]


In 2011, Israel and Russia signed the Space Co-operation Agreement. The framework agreement is meant to develop joint research programs and other collaborations in areas like astrophysical and planetary research, space biology and medicine, navigational satellites and launching services and technology.[37]

Nuclear technology[edit]

In 2013, the Israeli and Russian government signed agreements to collaborate on nuclear imaging and the development of radioactive materials for dental treatments. Although the agreement is limited to medical treatments, it could form the basis for wider collaboration for ventures between the two countries in nuclear technology.[38]

Technology incubators[edit]

In the field of technology incubators, collaborative projects are being establish between the two states. Rusnano, the Russian government's vehicle for investments in nanotechnology, has established a branch in Israel, with the aim of setting up a fund for investment in Israeli nanotechnology ventures.[39] Similarly, Russia's Skolkovo innovation center has established a branch in Israel, the Israel-Skolkovo Gateway/Center (IsraelSK), which involves raising private capital and government grants leveraging for Israeli and Russian start-up companies.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Putin Pledges To Protect All Ethnic Russians Anywhere, So, Where Are They? By Robert Coalson for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 10, 2014
  2. ^ Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987) p.527
  3. ^ UN General Assembly Resolution 181 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  4. ^ Recognition of Israel JSTOR - The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 4, No. 3, July 1948.
  5. ^ Yossi Goldstein, "Doomed to Fail: Golda Meir's Mission to Moscow (Part 1)", The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs Vol. 5 No. 3 (September 2011), pg. 131
  6. ^ Yossi Goldstein, "Doomed to Fail: Golda Meir's Mission to Moscow (Part 1)", The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs Vol. 5 No. 3 (September 2011), pg. 131
  7. ^ "China defense minister visits Israel". World Tribune. Thursday, October 21, 1999
  8. ^ Russia's New Middle Eastern Policy: Back to Bismarck? Ariel Cohen. Jerusalem Issue Brief. Institute for Contemporary Affairs. Vol. 6, No. 25. March 20, 2007 Russia's New Middle Eastern Policy:Back to Bismarck?
  9. ^ Netanyahu aide likely to pay price for 'secret' Russia trip
  10. ^ Israel Kills at least 225 and wounded 700 People in Gaza, 28 December 2008 Sunday Retrieved on 2009-01-08
  11. ^ Reuters AlertNet - Russia asks Israel to end Gaza attacks, let in Retrieved on 2009-01-08
  12. ^ Российская гуманитарная помощь доставлена в сектор Газа
  13. ^ Медведев поручил оказать дополнительную помощь Палестине
  14. ^ Russian Prime Minister Putin: Israel Is, in Fact, a Special State to Us 20.07.2011
  15. ^ DIASPORA & CITIZENSHIP, by Claire Sutherland, Elena Barabantseva, (Routledge 2013), page 88
  16. ^ After shunning Europe, Russia turning to Israel for fruit imports
  17. ^ India and Israel to supply meat and dairy to Russia
  18. ^ Russian-Israelis vote for next Kremlin leader by Polina Perlman, Published: 03.04.12, ynetnews
  19. ^ Israel to host most extensive Victory Day celebrations outside of former USSR 7 May, Voice of Russia
  20. ^ Жириновский в Израиле говорил об антисемитизме на Украине 25 февраля 2014 г., 21:14,
  21. ^ Israelis Find A Lively Jewish Niche in Moscow by Rena Greenberg - Moscow, Russia, MARCH 19, 2014
  22. ^ Russian-born Israelis chase capitalist dreams to Moscow By Ofer Matan, Feb. 21, 2014, Haaretz
  23. ^ Israeli cultural centers (News)
  24. ^ Israelis Find A Lively Jewish Niche in Moscow by Rena Greenberg - Moscow, Russia, MARCH 19, 2014
  25. ^ Россия и Израиль: путь к военному сотрудничеству 08 октября 2013, 09:03Александр Шульман
  26. ^ Russia and Israel sign military agreement
  27. ^ Russia boosts military cooperation with Israel
  28. ^ Russia ‘May Buy’ $50 Mln Worth of Israeli UAVs MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti)
  29. ^ Россия и Израиль: путь к военному сотрудничеству 08 октября 2013, 09:03Александр Шульман
  30. ^ IAI signs $400 million Russian deal
  31. ^ Россия и Израиль: путь к военному сотрудничеству 08 октября 2013, 09:03Александр Шульман
  32. ^
  33. ^ Israel and Kazakhstan: Assessing the state of bilateral relations Kevjn Lim, 6 May 2014, Open Briefing
  34. ^ Russia, Israel sign visa-free agreement RIA Novosti, 20/03/2008
  35. ^ Israel may create free trade zone - Customs Union 18 March, 2014, Voice of Russia
  36. ^ Netanyahu and Putin to get direct and secure hotline By Itamar Eichner, 06.01.14,
  37. ^ Israel, Russia sign space agency cooperation agreement By Asaf Shtull-Trauring, Haaretz, Mar. 28, 2011
  38. ^ Israel, Russia to collaborate on dental nuclear imagingGlobes, January 1, 2014
  39. ^ Rusnano Israel to help Russia’s Rusnano cultivate Israeli nanotech developers
  40. ^ "Israel Skolkovo Gateway". Retrieved 24 September 2011. 

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