Medvedev montage Photos Twitter accounts LOGOReplete with smiles all around, along with symbolic visits to the Western Wall and Yad Vashem, Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is in Israel. Why is he here? Ostensibly, the reason is to strengthen economic ties between Moscow and Jerusalem. But in Medvedev's own words to Russian journalists, the real focus has to do with other pressing matters.


When Russia's Prime Minister landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening, 9 November, he did not dally at the airport. Instead, he went straight to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City. Putting on a kippa , he went up the wall and touched it with apparent reverence.

It was a message. In the aftermath of a recent resolution by UNESCO that linked the Temple Mount and Jerusalem's Old City only to Islam, Medvedev came to place and honored it as a Hebrew holy place. And he went back again this morning. Once again, head covered and accompanied by members of the Orthodox Jewish community, Medvedev was given a glossy photo book that documents the fundamental Jewishness of the place.

Departing the Western Wall, he was meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin less than an hour later. The atmosphere between the men was warm. As it also was a few minutes later when the Russian leader shook hands with the leader of Israel's parliamentary Opposition (in juxtaposition with Prime Minister Netanyahu's governing coalition).

Before meeting up with Netanyahu this afternoon, he stopped by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also in Jerusalem's Old City. The church located on the site where Jesus was crucified and buried. He stood next to a stone where some believe that Jesus' body was prepared for burial. Christian Orthodox priests presented him with a medallion.

Quickly, then, he made his way to Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem. What did they talk about?

Most press coverage leading up to Medvedev's visit has emphasized Moscow's desire to improve economic ties with Israel. Russia is especially interested in the Jewish State's agricultural technologies.

But the real focus of talks, according to Medvedev's own words when speaking with Russian journalists yesterday, is "current global developments and the persisting problems in the Middle East." Meaning, of course, Russia's military campaign in Syria and its likely acceleration in days to come.

Medvedev may be peddling friendship, but he is also here to speak of war.

Jerusalem remains keen to avoid involvement in the military conflict in Syria. At the same time, however, it insists on the right to strike targets inside Syria that are gunning, literally gunning, at Israel - and building up Iranian supplied weapons to do so. Since Russia showed up in Syria just over a year ago, the two states have made an arrangement whereby Israel notifies Russia of flights over Syrian airspace and Russia, accordingly, does not shoot at them. With the likelihood of a significant increase in bombing sorties, air traffic is going to be busy, increasing the risk of various accidents that could ignite regional war.

In keeping with a show of solidarity with Israel as uniquely Jewish State, Medvedev is also scheduled to visit Yad Vashem tomorrow. Yad Vashem is the nation's Holocaust memorial museum.

What is Russia's message in this visit? Clearly, it wants Israel to regard it as a friend. Israeli leaders seem inclined to accept the gesture but do so keenly aware that Moscow has also allied itself with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation that has sworn itself to Israel's annihilation and is equipping itself for that objective with nuclear technology and missiles supplied by the same government represented by a smiling and reverential Medvedev who is in Jerusalem today.


Brian Schrauger is the Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Journal. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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