Mar 9, 2022 - World

The Palestinian Authority's Russia-Ukraine dilemma

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting in Moscow in 2018. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting in Moscow in 2018. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

RAMALLAH, West Bank  The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put the Palestinian Authority in a serious dilemma.

Driving the news: The U.S. and some European countries have asked the Palestinian leadership to issue a statement condemning Russia, a historical ally, but the PA rejected it, a senior Palestinian official said.

  • The official added that the PA has good relations with Ukraine and with Russia, who both vote with Palestine at the UN, and therefore prefers not to take sides in the conflict.
  • The official said the Biden administration is now pressuring the PA to condemn Russia's invasion, but declined to give further details. The State Department did not reply to a request for comment.

What they're saying: "We have a Palestinian community in Russia and another in Ukraine, and we fear that any political position we may take will negatively affect these communities,” the official said.

  • Palestinian political analyst Hani Al-Masri said that condemning Russia means the Palestinians would lose a major ally and supporter of their political positions. Therefore, he said, it is better for the PA to distance itself from the conflict.
  • "On the other hand, the U.S., despite its verbal stances, did not offer anything to the Palestinians. It did not reopen the consulate in Jerusalem, nor did it launch a political process based on the two-state solution,” Al-Masri said.
  • Al-Masri added that many Palestinians see a double standard in how the international community quickly condemned Russia but hasn't taken similar steps to condemn the Israeli occupation and treatment of Palestinians.

Between the lines: The PA does not have a vote at the UN General Assembly and thus did not have to take a public stance on the resolution last week condemning Russia.

The big picture: The developments in Ukraine have topped the headlines of Palestinian media.

  • Since the beginning of the crisis, the PA has been focused on efforts to evacuate Palestinians from Ukraine.
  • Ambassador Ahmed al-Deek, the assistant Palestinian foreign minister, said that before the crisis, there were 2,000 Palestinian citizens residing in Ukraine in addition to 600 students.
  • He added that 1,300 Palestinians, including residents and students, have been evacuated.
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