Neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Foreign Ministry would respond Sunday to the comments, apparently because of the extreme sensitivity of Israel’s relations with Russia.

Netanyahu Putin
Netanyahu and Putin. (photo credit: REUTERS)


Jerusalem had no formal response on Sunday to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments broadcast on Saturday saying Jews might have been behind alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election, even as American Jewish organizations criticized Putin for his remarks.

Neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Foreign Ministry would respond Sunday to the comments, apparently because of the extreme sensitivity of the relations with Russia, which currently has military forces stationed in Syria to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks regularly to Putin, travels to Russia to meet Putin about twice a year, and says he has developed a special relationship with the Russian president.

Putin, in the NBC interview, said he “couldn’t care less” if Russian citizens tried to meddle in the US elections, and suggested that Jews, Ukrainians or Tartars, often a Russian euphemism for Muslims, might be responsible for the meddling.

“There are 146 million Russians. So what?” he said. “They do not represent the interests of the Russian state.“

“Why have you decided the Russian authorities, myself included, gave anybody permission to do this?” he said. “Maybe they are not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card; maybe the U.S. paid them for this.”

Zvi Magen, a former Israeli ambassador to Russia, agreed with the policy of not publicly responding to the remark.

If called out on this publicly by Israel, Magen said, Putin would deny any anti-semitic intent and just “roll his eyes.”

This, he said, would place Israel in an “uncomfortable position” with the Russian leader. Rather than a public rebuke, Magen said Israel would be wiser to mention its discomfort about the statement in private.

Magen said he did not know for sure what Putin meant by the statements.

“There are two options,” he said. “One was that it was just an empty comment, and the other is that there was a message in it. But I do not know what the intent was because we know that at a basic level Putin is neither an antisemite nor anti-Israel.”

The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, on the other hand, took the Russian leader to task for the remark.

“President Putin suggesting that Russian Federation minorities, be they Ukrainian, Tatar, or Jewish, were behind US election meddling is eerily reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He should clarify his comments at the earliest opportunity,” the AJC said in a tweet.

ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt issued a statement saying that “as the Russian government faces expanding evidence and new questions about possible meddling in US elections, President Putin bizarrely has resorted to the blame game by pointing the finger at Jews and other minorities in his country.”

“We live in a moment when antisemitic violence is on the rise and words can have profound consequences, particularly when spoken by public figures or elected officials like President Putin,” Greenblatt said. “We hope he swiftly clarifies his words before they cause further damage to those communities he has singled out.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post