Putin moves to block Russian Jews from immigrating to Israel

Putin moves to block Russian Jews from immigrating to Israel

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Several thousand Russians left Russia for Israel after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. An estimated 1 million Jews from Russia and other former Soviet states moved to Israel after the Soviet Union broke up 30 years ago. In the whole decade before 2015, just 36,784 Russian Jews came. In 2014, the year of the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, Russian yearly migration to Israel passed the 4500 mark for the first time in ten years. The perception that Russia is becoming more and more illiberal is helping drive a spike in emigration from there for the last four years among Jews in Israel.

The sense that Russia is growing increasingly illiberal is helping drive a surge of emigration by Jews there to Israel in the past four years. Since 2015, nearly 40,000 of them have arrived in Israel. In the entire decade prior to 2015, only 36,784 Russian Jews had come.

That’s not the only reason for the current wave of immigration: among other causes are economic woes and a persistent crime problem. Yet many observers and immigrants see those issues as merely contributing factors to an exodus pushed largely by the significant deterioration in personal freedoms under President Vladimir Putin, a phenomenon some have begun to call the “Putin aliyah.         “sun-sentinel.com

Israel has had warmer relations with Russia than many Western nations for decades, in part due to the large Russian-speaking community in the country, about 15% of the total population. Israel has engaged repeatedly with top Russian leaders since 2015, a development that, given growing tensions between the Russians and Washington, may be factoring into US-Israeli relations.

So far, Russia has not presented a major challenge to U.S.-Israeli cooperation in the Middle East, although the expanding activities of Russia certainly affect Israeli and American interests. The improved relationship of the Russian Federation with the State of Israel has paralleled a growing Russian-Israeli alliance with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, all countries with shared opposition to a new brand of Ottomanism initiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and both countries that are also engaged in proxy wars against Turkey in the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Middle East.

On the surface, it seems like a doomed diplomatic gambit — the untested leader of Israel, which is known for its unresolved conflict with the Palestinians and wars with its neighbors, tries to help end the most serious combat in Europe since the end of World War II.

That’s what happened when Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Moscow on Feb. 26, a Saturday, two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, despite being an observant Jew for whom travel on the Sabbath is forbidden unless it’s a matter of life and death.    “nbcnews.com

Israel, which has failed to achieve a two-state solution with Palestinians, could look badly positioned to be a diplomatic heavyweight trying to bring the invasion to an end. Israel, one of the few countries that have favorable relations with both Russia and Ukraine, could be successful in insulating Israel from international pressure so long as it continues to broker a settlement between warring parties.

According to former Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, the fact that Israel, a country of nine million people, has been able to keep relations productive with Russia while maintaining good relations with the United States makes Israel an effective broker. Jerusalem and Moscow have been at odds over Israel’s support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of that country in February, as well as over Israel’s ongoing campaign against Iran in Syria, which the country has sometimes tolerated and sometimes outright opposed.

The Russian Federation denied any wrongdoing, while Dmitry Peskov, the most pro-Israeli of Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said that interference was not an option, suggesting that Israel should refrain from reading Israeli media.

Such a decision would have been a blow to Russian Jews and their families seeking to move to Israel amid the war their country is fighting in Ukraine, as well as subsequent international sanctions on Ukraine. Is not without precedent, this renewed threat to the Jewish Agency’s ability to operate in the country brings to mind the Soviet Unions Jewish population, which was barred from migrating to Israel, and from practicing openly its Jewish faith inside the Soviet Union.

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