A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016.
Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

To reach Trump, some take their pleas to Moscow

There’s some disagreement within Donald Trump’s team about the proper capital of Israel, a deeply controversial topic. Not surprisingly, Palestinians are feeling quite a bit of anxiety about where the incoming U.S. administration will come down on this sensitive topic.

And so, Palestinians have begun exploring diplomatic channels to help stave off a possible crisis – by reaching out to Moscow.

Agence France-Presse, a Paris-based intentional news service, reported last week that Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in persuading the Trump administration not to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. TPM’s Josh Marshall noted yesterday that some Israeli media has reported the same thing.
According to reports in the Israeli press and publications in various Arab countries, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent his plea to President Putin via chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. Erekat conveyed the message during his visit to Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“I came with an urgent message from Mahmoud Abbas. We request that President Putin use all the tools at his disposal to prevent Trump from relocating the embassy, because, for us, this is crossing a red line,” said Erekat.
Erekat later told reporters: “The letter asks President Putin to do what he can about the information we have that President-elect Donald Trump will move the embassy to Jerusalem, which for us is a red line and dangerous.”

Clearly, the underlying dispute is wrought with controversy, and Trump will have to be cautious if he wishes to prevent a combustible crisis in the Middle East.

But the broader context matters, too: it appears that some international observers are under the impression that to influence the new White House, they should call Russia, since it’s Putin who has the incoming American president’s ear.

I wonder what gave them that idea.