Olmert’s visit to Russia was a predictable humiliation. Putin conducts the traditional Russian pro-Arab policy. On occasion, Putin blasted the Zionists, just like his anti-semitic predecessors among Soviet rulers did. Putin is populist and won’t oppose Russian anti-Israeli sentiment. A strong Israel could claim half-hearted Russian respect. Visiting Russia after losing a war in Lebanon was a lousy idea.

Olmert begged Russia for things Israel could and should do herself without looking back. It will take Russia years to realize that nuclear Iran is a threat; Iran will foment unrest in Azerbaijan and other places in Russia’s backyard, just as it does now in Lebanon and Iraq. A nuclear Iran won’t fear Russian reaction. But for now, anti-American Iran is Russia’s friend. Russian foreign minister Lavrov foolishly said the international community must deal with Iran based on reciprocity. He meant reciprocal negotiations, but real reciprocity is nuking the Iranian nuclear facilities. Absent other takers, that is Israel’s job; Russian approval is not forthcoming anyway.

Arab markets are critical for Russian military exports. Asking Russia to stop arms sales to Syria was futile. Even if Russia stopped the sales, Syria still has considerable military assets and can turn to China for future supplies. Syrian military capability is not a major problem for Israel. Preventing Russian military sales to Syria won’t asphyxiate Hezbollah. The world is full of weapons, and arming a financially capable guerilla army is no problem.

By visiting Russia, Olmert recklessly repositioned it as Middle East arbiter. Objectively, Russia cannot claim that role: it is poor, unable to support the Muslims economically or militarily. No longer can Russia offer the Arabs economic megaprojects like the Aswan dam or build up Arab armies. Dragging Russia back into the Middle East’s power equation makes no sense for Israel; ignoring Russia is a far the better option.

Promoting relations with Russia harms Israeli morale. Israel has a problem assimilating large number of Russian Jew immigrants. Irresponsible Israeli politicians of Russian origin accentuate the behavioral differences between the communities instead of helping meld Russian Jews into the Israeli milieu. Russian Christians are a huge group, about 4% of Israel’s population. Israel is full of Russian language, culture, and media. Israel need not fan pro-Russian sentiment. Rapprochement with Russia, however, is necessary for numerous Israeli oligarchs, gangsters, and dirty businessmen with strong ties to Russia.

Olmert’s dealing with Russia has another side, the claims of the Russian Imperial Society for Palestine. The unimportant 19th century outfit was suddenly resurrected in 1992 to claim ostensibly Russian land in Jerusalem. Jews also owned that land in 70 C.E., as have many others, from Assyrians to Ottomans. Past property claims cannot be taken seriously. The Israeli government evicted Jews from Gush Katif, land they bought and developed; what is the weight of century-old Russian claims to our holy city?

Russia has the audacity to claim the land after exterminating Jews for centuries, cooperating with the Nazis to bring the Holocaust to Poland, attempting to massacre Jews by exiling us to Siberia in 1953, and decades of Soviet persecution. Russia ought to restore Jewish property looted in the pogroms and appropriated from Jewish communities annihilated in the Holocaust. Many countries have refused Russian claims based on succession from the tsarist regime. Russian claims to land in Jerusalem should not be entertained.