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Should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accept Russia’s invitation to attend peace talks in Moscow with the Palestinians, he will have committed a major blunder.

Russia is very much an antagonist in the Middle East, as it sponsors the regimes in Syria and Iran, thereby lending support to terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

Netanyahu would be foolish to look to Russia as an honest broker for peace. But the fact that Netanyahu is considering Russia’s offer is testimony to the sad state of affairs in relations between Israel and the United States.

It is no exaggeration to state that Netanyahu is being pushed by President Barack Obama into looking to Russia as the arbiter. Though all his predecessors opposed Israel’s settlements on the West Bank, Obama has been obsessed by the settlements.

He has not grasped that it is Israel’s existence which is at the core of the conflict rather than Israel’s settlements. Obama even equates Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem as an impediment to peace as much as the settlements on the West Bank.

To be fair, the Obama administration has for its part stopped resolutions in the United Nations declaring Israeli settlements illegal. The Obama administration has also warned the Palestinian Authority that it would oppose any unilateral declaration of its statehood.

But Netanyahu fears that Obama will issue punitive rebukes to Israel after the elections. And the fears are real. Obama himself said on Israeli television last year that the United States will have to re-evaluate its support for the Jewish state in the United Nations and elsewhere.

Of course, this does not justify Netanyahu turning to Russia as an arbiter for peace. Soviet Russia was the second nation behind the United States to recognize Israel in 1948. But things have long since changed and Israel owes it more to itself than even to the United States to reject Russia’s offer to broker an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

On the other hand, the United States has invested much of itself into the peace process and should find any moves by Russia to emerge as the prime arbiter intolerable. Ironically, the Obama administration has been encouraging the Russians, vowing to “be supportive” of any efforts by Russia to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.

So how bad have relations become between Israel and the United States? That Israel is turning to Russia as a peace maker is telling. That the United States is encouraging this development is even more telling. And quite reckless.

John O’Neill is a writer based in Allen Park.

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