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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rabin Visit Lays Old Enmity to Rest

One of the bitterest enmities of the Cold War was laid to rest Tuesday when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin completed an official two-day visit to Moscow. Rabin, who is of Russian Jewish descent, stressed that he was the first Israeli prime minister to visit Russia since the foundation of the state of Israel. "We must not forget that for almost 40 years there were no direct contacts and if there were suppositions about Israel they were not always correct," Rabin said. "So we have to begin our cooperation almost from the beginning." The visit turned the page on a history of frosty relations when "international Zionism" had been among the chief bugbears of Soviet ideology. Two issues dominated Rabin's talks with President Boris Yeltsin, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Defense Minister Pavel Grachev -- Russia's role in the Middle East peace process and the rise of anti-Semitism in Russia. "In every meeting I reminded everyone to whom I talked that when Hitler wrote 'Mein Kampf,' no one believed it could happen. And it happened," Rabin told a press conference. "I said it is a matter also for legislation from everyone from the president to the prime minister to the foreign minister," Rabin said, adding that the Russian side had responded by proving its "awareness" of the problem of anti-Semitism. Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who topped polls in parliamentary elections last December, regularly sprinkles his remarks with taunts against Jews and "Zionists." Other politicians are still more openly anti-Semitic, such as television reporter turned State Duma deputy Alexander Nevzorov, who last week said Zionism was a "second fascism." The main Russian goal in the talks was to boost Moscow's role as cosponsor in the Middle East peace negotiations. Russia officially shares the role with the United States but has stayed in the shadows over the last year while Israel struck historic agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Meeting Rabin, Grachev said "instability in the Middle East can reflect on the situation in the south of Russia and exacerbate international religious conflicts." However, Rabin said no concrete details of Russia expanding its part in the peace process had been discussed. But he said he had rejected a Russian proposal for a new international Middle East summit. Israeli officials said Rabin had criticized the intransigence of Syria, one of Tel Aviv's oldest enemies and Moscow's oldest friends, in each of his talks. A Russian delegation, headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, is currently in Syria. Shimon Sheves, the head of the Israeli prime minister's chancery, told reporters that Rabin was reassured by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that Russia would not sell any new weapons to Syria, as Israel feared. Rabin's visit continues in less official style Wednesday when he visits St. Petersburg, the city his mother left as a poor immigrant 75 years ago for British-administered Palestine.