We talked to Israil Shamir, one of Russia’s leading Middle East experts, about the protests in Israel and the latest developments in the region.
Anti-Netanyahu protests continue in Israel. It is stated that even the members of the army and intelligence support the actions. Is the reason for the actions in Israel only the draft judicial reform or is there a deeper break?
That is surely not the only reason. Basically, Israeli Jews are divided to two big fractions: one is the Oriental Jews and the other one is the European Jews.
That’s actually a revolt of European Jews against Oriental Jews. Demonstrations are basically belonging to European Jews.
So, it is a conflict between Ashkenazy against the Sephardic you mean?
But why? What is the reason?
The Ashkenazy think that they establish the state of Israel and they want to control it and to basically manage it.
But Oriental Jews are also a part of population and they feel that they should be able to manage countries towards elections. At same time, European Jews think, elections or not, they should have the control of country.
So that’s why figures like Ehud Barak, as an Ashkenazy, support the demonstrations?
So it is kind of a cultural conflict?
Yes. It is similar to what happened in Lebanon. There are different ethnics groups… So the base of the conflict is ethnic division.
Netanyahu government claims that George Soros is behind the actions. How would you evaluate the Netanyahu-Biden relations? Is there a rupture between the US and Israel?
It is very possible that Soros is behind these demonstrations. In the USA there are republicans and democrats.
The Ashkenazy support the Democrats and the Sephardic support the Republicans.
In America, there are strong groups for both sides. Americans Jews support Democrats but Israeli Jews support Republicans. But bankers and people of Schwabs (Davos team) support demonstrations.
What I understood from what you are saying is that all this conflict inside of Israel, and the so-called conflict between US and Israel is based on ethnic codes?
Mainly ethnic codes but also there are ideological differences.
Like which ones?
The people who are supporting Netanyahu are fundamentalists of Jewish religion. But the opposition is not.
Actually, the biggest difference is that Ashkenazi Jews doesn’t want a religious country.
But they don’t have any choice: Because, unless that they unite with Palestinians, religious Jews, or with settlers they will never win the elections.
In foreign policy there are any differences between Netanyahu and opposition?
It is pretty same foreign policy. Russians have a say fight between snake and toad. But both are revolting, snake is bad and toad is bad. Both quite bad.
So, their geopolitical perspective is same?
Practically no difference…Both groups are violent against Palestinians. They claim that they are better but in reality, they are not. In Israel, there was a government before Netanyahu… People from opposition were in the government but they also bombard Gazza as much as others…And both side hate Iran…
Although Israel initially took a neutral stance in the Ukraine war, it turned the rudder towards the Western front in the following process. How would you evaluate the Russia-Israel relations?
Netanyahu tries to be friendly with Putin. He thinks that Russia is important for Israel, because Russia could stop Israeli attacks to Syria.
And Russia thinks that it will be good to be not enemy with Israel because Israel is powerful as itself and union with United States… So that was the perspective.
Do you think it is still like that?
It used the be like that but Netanyahu not very keen on pro Ukrainian oppositions…He has to follow American policies, but he is not keen on it.
So, it is a must for him?
Yes, it is must for everybody.
The Turkish-Israeli normalization process has begun. What is Israel’s view of Türkiye?
I think now relations are more or less normal. They think that Erdogan wouldn’t change it. And Israel wouldn’t attack Türkiye. From this point of view, all very stable.
But Israel wants to bring Erdogan against Iran but Erdogan will not to do it. There is even peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia…
China mediated between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the two countries decided to normalize their relations. How do you evaluate?
These are really important and positive steps. The US and Israel were playing on this conflict. This peace improves the position of China, Russia and Iran and global opposition. Egypt is the biggest Arab country and I hope they will make peace with Iran also.