Russia, Already Reinserting Itself in Middle East, Enters Israeli-Palestinian Fray

With the United States pulling back after years of frustrated efforts to break the intractable impasse between Israelis and Palestinians, Russia is stepping forward with its own drive to bring peace to a fractured land.

 

A special envoy has been shuttling through the region, Israeli and Palestinian leaders are jockeying for position, and Russia keeps hinting that a Moscow summit meeting may be in the offing. Never mind that nearly everyone involved here agrees that the effort will almost certainly not lead to a settlement of the decades-old dispute.

 

Russia’s newfound Middle East peace push, part of President Vladimir V. Putin’s reinsertion of Moscow into the region in a profound way after years of retreat, seems to be about everything but finding peace in the Middle East. Instead, it is about Moscow’s ambitions and competition with Washington, exemplified by its intervention in Syria.

 

Mr. Putin’s military campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has transformed the dynamics of that conflict and made Russia a leading player in the area’s geopolitics, thwarting Washington’s diplomatic efforts.

 

Alongside its deep engagement in Syria, Russia’s recent rapprochement with Turkey and developing-if-fragile alliance with Iran have made Russia a major actor in the region in a way it has not been since the Cold War.

 

The Kremlin’s diplomatic endeavor in Jerusalem has become something of a three-way geopolitical billiards game in which each side is counting on a bank shot to leave itself in a better position. Israel is determined to deflect what it considers more threatening interventions by the French or even the Americans. The Palestinian leadership, facing internal challenges and plummeting support on the street, is trying to shore up its standing at home and abroad by showing it is willing to do something.

 

Almost beside the point is whether a meeting actually takes place, much less yields tangible progress toward reconciliation between two hostile populations.

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