Israel’s efforts to persuade Russia to cancel delivery of the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles have not been in vain, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin.
The Likud minister, who went with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin in May, explained that the Russians “understand” Israel’s position, “especially if you talk about the president [Putin] and not the Foreign Ministry. There are some different tones from the presidency and the Foreign Ministry on this matter,” he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.
Elkin said that in general, government leaders tend to view Israel more favorably than their foreign ministries do.
“Foreign ministries in every state are more pro-Arab [than their governments’ leaders], period,” Elkin said.
The foreign ministries are institutionally more sensitive to the Arab position since they have to consider how their policies will affect their work in various international forums where they must deal with the Arabs and their allies. State leaders are more likely to be driven by “ideological reasons,” which often makes them more sympathetic to Israel, he explained.
“It is unequivocal that Putin understands us better that Lavrov and the Foreign Ministry,” Elkin said. “That doesn’t mean he will give us what we want. He will act according to what he thinks are his and Russia’s interests at the time. No one acts according to our interests; everyone looks after their own interests.”
Elkin was careful not to overstate the case. While stating that Israel’s lobbying against the delivery of the S-300s was “not in vain,” he also said he was not promising “100-percent success.”
The presence of about a million Russian-speakers in Israel helps, he said. It gives Putin the the feeling that Israel is “not an enemy state, but rather a potential ally for many things and processes, and a possible interlocutor.”
Elkin stressed, however, that regarding Israel and Syria, Russia will determine its policy according to its perceived national interests, with little regard for moral issues or public opinion.