By Uriel Araujo
Russian national “outside the list” released from Hamas a diplomatic win for Moscow
The State of Palestine however faces internal divisions, with Gaza today also being a disputed area in an ongoing intra-Palestine conflict between the Islamic group Hamas and the secular Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority. The former exercises de facto administration in Gaza while the latter controls the West Bank.
Israel routinely compares Hamas to the terrorist group ISIS, also known as Daesh or Islamic State. However upon engaging in negotiations with the combatant group, it has implicitly recognized it as a legitimate political actor. Moscow has been heavily criticized for engaging with Hamas, especially after October 7, however the recent developments have shown that this approach is rational and fruitful.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs assessed the “good will gesture” by Hamas leaders pertaining to the release of a Russian hostage in a very positive way. It was announced by Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official representative, on November 27, who said: “We would like to draw your attention to the fact that our compatriot was given the opportunity to return home without being bound by the fulfillment of the conditions agreed upon through the mediation of Qatar between Israel and Hamas for the exchange of some of the women and children hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.” Zakharova confirmed that this humanitarian outcome happened solely thanks to Russian diplomacy without Qatar’s mediation. Moscow in any case notified Tel Aviv about such an operation and signaled its readiness to pursue similar work in the future.
Diplomacy today is an incredibly complex business. Far from consisting in relations, agreements and dialogue between nation-states solely, it increasingly involves dealing with non-state or quasi-state actors as well as others whose status might be ambiguous or disputed such as de facto governments, rebel groups, unrecognized or partly-recognized states, and so on. In addition, religious institutions plus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Red Cross play a very important role in mediating conflicts.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken, echoing many other voices, the stance that the so-called “two-state” formula, approved by the UN Security Council, would be a viable solution for the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So far Israeli-Russian pragmatic good relations have endured. It remains to be seen how the escalation in Gaza will affect this complex relationship.