Despite demands from the US administration and the US Congress, Israel has refrained from criticising Russia.
Despite pressure from Democratic and Republican senators in the US Congress and the US administration and a direct request from Kiev, the Israeli government took a similar position to the West on Russia but did not criticise Russia. Calling for the protection of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the Israeli government expressed hope that a diplomatic solution would be found to ensure calm.
The Israeli government has said it is ready to participate and contribute to the issue if requested. This call was made by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. However, Israeli diplomatic sources said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternative Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defence Minister Benny Gantz co-wrote the State Department statement. Sources said the formula followed numerous calls within the government and the National Security Council. The statement said Israel continues to strive to restore control of the diplomatic process and that preparations have been completed to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine if needed. Israel has not taken an open position on developments since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine and has remained silent, according to Bennett and Lapid’s statements that ‘Israel’s positions will be closer to the West if a solution is reached’.
This silence continued even after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to recognize ‘Moscow’s recognition of two separatist regions (Donetsk and Luhansk) in eastern Ukraine. Israeli state television Kan 11 reported that the US administration has asked Tel Aviv to change its policy, make it clear that it stands with the West against the crisis and take practical measures in this context. The same demands were made by senators in the U.S. Congress who have met with Bennett and other Israeli officials over the past two days. The need to make these demands from Israel follows the apparent confusion of the Israeli government in the face of the Ukraine crisis. Not wanting to anger the U.S. administration, Israeli officials are trying to take a different stance from Washington on the Ukraine issue because Israel needs the United States, while adhering to Israeli commitments to its security at a time when special relations between the United States and Israel and the nuclear deal with Iran are coming to an end.
But Israel is also careful not to confront Russia in order to avoid a negative situation in its coordination with Moscow in Syria. The Russians allow Israel to strike Iranian targets and militias in Syria almost completely freely. Russia, however, has been taking showy measures against Israel’s activities since the Ukraine crisis and is signaling that Tel Aviv will pay a price in Syria if it stands up to Moscow on the Ukraine issue.
Therefore, the Israeli Foreign Ministry statement, which takes care to use a cautious tone, stated that “the territorial integrity of Ukraine is supported”, but did not mention Russia and Putin.
However, Israel’s stance did not please Kiev. Valdislav Roettberg, adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenski, said that “Ukraine is a democratic state and expects its partners, with whom it shares the same values, to stand by it against aggression that threatens its territory.” According to Kan 11 TV, Ukrainian officials are “disappointed that Israel has refrained from condemning Russian aggression.” “We understand the sensitivity, but there must be a limit to the sensitivity. We’ll wait a few more days and we’ll see. This is the process by which the reliability of relations between Ukraine and Israel is measured.” Kiev says it would not help to pressure Tel Aviv to force Israel to condemn Russian aggression, and relies on the U.S. administration and senators with strong ties to Israel, especially in the Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S. Congress, Kan 11 reported, citing Ukrainian sources.
The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot featured an interview with Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in yesterday’s (Wednesday) issue. After talks in Tel Aviv in November 2021, Ukraine received cyberspace assistance from Israel, Reznikov said, “but we need to learn ways to defend ourselves on the ground and at the point of arms against russian attack.”