Kirill Solod
The Golda Meir Institute for Political and Social studies

Madame Ambassador

The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that Simona Halperin, the head of the Euro-Asia Division at the Foreign Ministry, has been appointed Israel’s Ambassador to Russia.

Previously, Mrs. Halperin spent two years (2017-2019) as Israel’s Ambassador to Singapore. With almost 20 years of experience in the diplomatic service, Mrs. Halperin has served as deputy ambassador in Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea, and as a director of the International Organizations and Human Rights Department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Besides Hebrew and English, the new
Ambassador also speaks Russian.

Despite the fact that current ambassador, Alexander Ben-Zvi, has worked in Russia for 2.5 years, there is a sense of understatement in his cadence. Ambassador Ben-Zvi was also appointed at a time when Netanyahu was the head of the ruling coalition. At that moment, relations between Russia and Israel were built in conditions of the peak of the Coronavirus and the recognition by Israel of the Russian
Sputnik-V vaccine.

Alexander Ben-Zvi leaves his post with a record number of repatriates from Russia, according to various experts, 40-60,000 people. Russian politicians and the public will remember him as a very cautious person in expressing any specific position. In particular, in an interview to RTVI, he noted: “We should not say whether it is an ally (one side or another) or an adversary. We have good relations with both Russia and Ukraine.”

On May 3 delegation led by Simona Halperin met in Moscow with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin. It was the first known high-level meeting between Israeli and Russian Foreign ministry representatives since the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Some experts are inclined to believe that the visit is related to the discussion of the Iranian issue. Some believe that this visit was a kind of “curtsy” (acquaintance before the official appointment), which is so important for the Russian side (the visit was only reported by Moscow).

Being deputy director of the Eurasian department, Ambassador Halperin visited Kyiv more than once and, apparently, established good contacts in Ukraine. While Israeli Foreign Minister Cohen was the first Israeli government minister to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion. He was joined in Ukraine by Simona Halperin.
Besides that, while Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky was slightly injured in a road accident in Poland and was evacuated to Israel for medical treatment, he was replaced by Mrs. Halperin and led
Israel’s humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian side.

To what extent the Ukrainian experience and contacts of the new Ambassador will help her in her work in Russia, only time will tell. But there is an understanding that it is the war in Ukraine that is likely to affect the policies of Israel and Russia in the Middle East region.

About the Author
Political advisor. Research analyst. Government Relations, International Affairs, Political Sociology. Head of The Golda Meir Institute for Political and Social studies and managing partner of the Institute of Political Consulting LS GROUP. Former consultant to M. Gorbachev on public relations. Former head of NGOs in Russia. MBA, Instituto de Empresa (Madrid, 2010). Repatriated to Israel in 2017.
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