Palestinian Islamic Jihad optimistic after visit to Russia

While some believe the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's trip to Moscow aimed to counter US plans that favor Israel, others say it reflects the movement’s openness to whatever serves the interests of the Palestinian cause.

al-monitor The delegation from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad pose for a photo with Mikhail Bogdanov (2nd L), Moscow, Russia. Posted Aug. 8, 2018. Photo by Twitter/@shirimoshe.

Aug 16, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) delegation visited Russia recently in the hope that Moscow can get Israel to end its siege on the Gaza Strip.

The delegation met Aug. 7 with Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials including Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. The meeting, which PIJ members described as a success, focused on the need for an all-inclusive agreement among Palestinians as soon as possible. It also centered on the need to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the escalating situation in Gaza, and to end projects designed to liquidate the Palestinian cause. The PIJ believes the latter includes US President Donald Trump's so-called deal of the century. In an Aug. 7 statement, the PIJ said Bogdanov emphasized that “Russia stands at the side of the Palestinian people and endorses their legitimate rights.” The statement also said Russia is keen to help with Palestinian internal affairs and acknowledges "the importance of building a unified Palestinian National Council, as a preamble to rebuilding the PLO.”

PIJ spokesman Daoud Shihab told Al-Monitor, "We perceive this visit to be of special importance as it is part of the movement’s openness to international parties, based on our unchanged policy guidelines."

According to Shihab, important dossiers were discussed correlating with developments in the Palestinian territories and invalidating the Israeli narrative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in light of what he said are Israeli efforts to mislead the public. He added that the PIJ seeks to voice its stance regarding all of the political developments, particularly when it comes to US plans that the group considers to be pro-Israel.

Shihab noted that the PIJ is keen to air the repercussions of the 12-year Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip, particularly since Russia was a member of the Quartet on the Middle East (the others being the United States, the European Union and the United Nations). He said the Quartet, formed in 2002, created an environment favorable for the blockade after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. He stated, “What is required is that all parties assume full responsibility for lifting the siege.”

Shihab expressed hope that the Russian role differs from that of the United States, and said the PIJ delegation went to Russia bearing in mind the Palestinian people’s rights, sacrifices and steadfastness. Shihab considered the meeting with the Russian officials to be very positive, saying, “The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs verbalized its eagerness to continue to communicate with the movement and hear its opinion about multiple issues, particularly its political role in the region.”

Hani Habib, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Al-Monitor that the visit opened the door wide for the PIJ to start engaging in political action outside the region. He noted that the invitation reflects the Russian desire to boost relations with Palestinian forces, as part of a Russian political and diplomatic development and efforts to assume a significant role in the Middle East.

He said, “Such visits would produce policies to withstand that of the United States, particularly since Russia is against the 'deal of the century,' and following [Trump's] stances on Jerusalem and the refugees. Also, this is in favor of the Palestinian stance.”

He indicated that the movement had previously tried to establish political ties with Arab countries such as Lebanon and Egypt, considering them to be an integral part of its resistance and diplomatic choice. Habib perceived that opening up to new horizons reflects the movement’s political and military strength, and noted that the fruits of the movement’s efforts to this end will not be limited to the PIJ, but will rather have an impact on the overall Palestinian spectrum.

Hasan Abdo, a political analyst close to the PIJ, told Al-Monitor the fact that the movement responded to the Russian invitation indicates the group is open to all countries that give backing to Palestinian rights. The movement is also concerned with bringing attention to the Palestinian cause and injustice done to its people, he added.

Abdo said he doesn't believe the visit correlates with the US position toward the Palestinian cause. He said Russia wanted to hear the Palestinian stance, which is united by Palestinian principles at all levels, particularly when it comes to the matter of Jerusalem and refugees. He said there are no signs pointing toward any change in the movement’s ideology, as strategic openness to the world serves the Palestinian cause.

The PIJ has proved itself in the Palestinian arena, he said, adding that Russia’s invitation had followed another one from Egypt. Abdo pointed out that the movement is keen to meet with whoever works to advance the Palestinian cause.

“There might be other visits, be they to Russia or another country. This however does not mean that the movement's perception when it comes to resisting Israel will be altered. Said perception is an important constant and foundation of the movement," he told Al-Monitor.

Abdo added, “There were Palestinian parties that — during their political and diplomatic journeys — made concessions at the expense of the resistance and its strategic choices and constants. Yet this does not apply to the Islamic Jihad, particularly since it has been betting for a long time that said concessions will fail to make the Palestinian cause victorious.”

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