To help ensure another year of US’ support, to frustrate Russian President Vladimir Putin and to stand for democracy and with a fellow democracy, it’s important thatPresident Volodymyr Zelensky visits Israel at the earliest possible opportunity. 

Shortly after Oct. 7, when Hamas savagely massacred 1,400 Israelis and took hundreds more to Gaza as hostages, President Zelensky called on world leaders to visit Israel and demonstrate solidarity with the Jewish state. Zelensky offered to visit personally, but was initially rebuffed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hewas then reported to be planning a visit as early as thispast week, but cancelled after news leaked

If there is still hope of US Congress supporting aid to Ukraine this year, it is critical the visit happens before Americans celebrate Thanksgiving later this month.

Modern Ukraine is a case study in overcoming historical divisions and unifying into a liberal democratic society, where Jews are an integral and celebrated minority. But when President Zelensky appealed to Israel for approval to transfer US defensive systems developed jointly with Israel, many Israelis balked – and not just because of an exaggerated concern about Russia's role in Syria.

Zelensky Urges Swift Defensive Buildup, as Concerns About Potential Russian Offensive Grow
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Zelensky Urges Swift Defensive Buildup, as Concerns About Potential Russian Offensive Grow

As fears grow that Kyiv’s counter-offensive has stalled there is concern that Russia may be preparing to launch a renewed offensive of its own – the signs are all there.

Let's be candid.

While Putin's claim to be fighting against Nazis in Ukraine is blatantly unfounded, for many Jews and Israelis – even those advocating for Ukraine – the defining Ukrainian-Jewish narrative centers on centuries of pogroms, discrimination, and persecution. 

As long as we’re being candid, since January 2023, under Republican control, the US House of Representatives has grown increasingly skeptical about further assistance to Ukraine. In some measure, this relates to a worldview in which Putin’s authoritarian, reactionary Russia appeals to the “Make America Great Again” crowd. More immediately, Republicans emulate Donald Trump’s distrust in the trans-Atlantic alliance and blame Ukraine for being the victim of Trump’s attempted extortion. 

As with Charles Lindbergh nine decades before them, “America First” advocates also oppose any foreign assistance. But they’ve usually made an exception for aid to Israel, especially to satisfy their evangelical base.

Even before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, many House Republicans opposed the next block of US assistance to Ukraine. Since the attack, for many Americans and Members of Congress, Israel’s new crisis has overshadowed concern for Ukraine. Putin is obviously asrelieved to have Ukraine sidelined on Capitol Hill as he is to see US President Joe Biden facing a new conflagration in the Middle East.  But Israel’s emergency has also opened momentum for a new overseas assistance package, which could include Israel and Ukraine, along with Taiwan and humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

The challenge will be convincing House Republicans, beginning with the new Speaker a.k.a. “MAGA Mike” – to send Ukraine four-times the amount being allocated for Israel. 

As European governments increasingly question Israel’s anti-Hamas operations in Gaza, a visit by President Zelensky will remind the world – and Brussels – that Israel is as much an embattled democracy as Ukraine is, and that Israel’s and Ukraine’s fights are Europe’s and the West’s. By uniting Ukraine and Israel rather than setting one US ally against the other, these optics can also smash through Putin’s neatly wrapped early Christmas gift. This will enhance the standing and security of Israel, Ukraine, and the Western alliance of democracies.

Most importantly for Ukraine, Zelensky’s dramatic show of solidarity with Israel – when Israeli leaders themselves have kept Ukraine’s struggle at arm’s length – will telegraph to House Republicans and their supporters, as well as American Jews, that Ukraine is on their side and the fates of Ukraine and Israel are both worthy causes –that Ukraine 2023 is setting the pace and supporting Ukraine is an existential imperative for us all.

President Zelensky has captivated Western audiences because, as Americans like to say, he puts his money where his mouth is. Having called on other leaders to visit Israel, he can now add deeds to his words. As much as another fundraising visit to Washington would feel good, President Zelensky wouldn’t return to Kyiv with half the political or financial capital, as from a visit to Jerusalem. 

Being the hero of Western democracy accrues many benefits, but it also requires continuous gestures and sacrifice to maintain and redouble that august title. A Presidential visit to Israel is the perfect next step in this trajectory, and the West and Israel need it at least as much as Ukraine does.

Shai Franklin, a partner with Gotham Government Relations, has represented clients from a variety of countries, including Ukraine.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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Comments (4)
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Ukraine has two problems: Russian imperialism and Mossad infiltration in its politics. How can one ever compare Ukraine to Israel? The former is a state fighting for its territory, the second is a state built on stolen land where the natives, the Palestinians, are forced to live in misery. Has this author gone mad or is he a Mossad agent of the many operating in Ukraine?
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It would be a great mistake for President Zelensky to link Israel with Ukraine. Yes, both were invaded, but Israel has the capacity to damage its enemies in a way Ukraine does not. And Israel’s retaliation for its 1200 dead & 200 hostages, has caused the world’s sympathy to switch to the Gazans. Hamas wins whatever Israel does. Either Israel’s military does not achieve its aims, in which case it looks vulnerable & will be attacked again, or it succeeds, & will be accused of the mass slaughter of civilians. Ukraine does not need to put itself in that mincing machine. Nor does Zelensky need to appear to be a friend of Netanyahu, who is deeply unpopular even in Israel, and on the way out. It is Netanyahu’s policy of West Bank settlement which has caused so much Arab resentment. He would make a very bad ally for Ukraine & damage Zelensky irretrievably.
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Ukraine should align itself with Israel? Wow. Putin deliberately destroys Ukrainian cities and targets civilians. Sounds much the same as what Israel does in Gaza. The current Israeli government is anti-democratic, anti-peace and very much motivated to keep the Palestinians subjugated under Israeli control....sounds very similar to Putin's plans for Ukraine. Geo-politically the fall out for Israel in they way its is responding to Oct 7 is gathering momentum. Furthermore US in particular, and the EU nations as well, are starting to be collectively viewed as supportive of a state engaged in huge war crimes. The non-aligned nations that are horrified at Israel's actions, by and large currently support Ukraine.... Is Ukraine willing to risk losing the next UN vote on Russian aggression? Does Ukraine really want to risk world wide support in order to `kiss-ass' with a government that has consistently refused to aid Ukraine (because it doesn't want to upset Russia). Besides the obvious moral disgust of any nation supporting another nation's war crimes, Ukraine has very little to gain by actively supporting Israel, and should avoid the middle east `quagmire'.

Anna Maria
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Spot on @LF, it would be a big mistake
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Absolute rubbish. There is nothing in common between the fight in Ukraine and Israel, and Zelensky should never be caught in that trap. Israel has never supported Ukraine, even when Iran is the main supplier of weapons to Russia and supposedly its main enemy too. To add insult to injury, the "special operation" is to kille the "nazis" in Ukraine, including its Jew Presidente Zelensky. With that awful situation, Israel has done NOTHING to support Ukraine. Israel has nothing to do with the free world, West and Christian values. Israel doesn´t follow any international law, including protecting innocent civilians in hospitals and UN centers. Israel is not part of the West (although is invited to participate at the annual Eurovision Music Festival, having nothing to do with Europe), and appart from expelling Palestinians from their properties, is being doing the same with Christians, trying to keep the whole Israel as a place only for Jews. The Christians that work at the Christian sacred places in Jerusalem know a lot about that. Israel is the main cause for the anger of Muslims all around the world against the West, and the US should understand that, or the 11-S might not be the last awful surprise.

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Now let us hear your comments on Israel’s neighbours, the Arab countries who have no problem with their ethnic or religious minorities because they killed or expelled them. Do you complain that the rest of the Middle East, 99.9%, is only for Muslims? Did you forget to mention that Israeli Arab Christians are massively over-represented in the medical profession, & that the Druze choose to join the Israeli army? Or that Israel has a Gay Pride March while in Arab countries, homosexuality is a crime deserving death? Certainly, Ukraine should not identify itself with Israel, since as you demonstrate, the prejudice against that tiny country is immense.

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@Cedar, So, Israel has to behave like the worst part of its neighbours? What about Jordan? As Mr. Borrell has said on his visit to Israel, a democratic country can´t respond to terrorism with more terrorism (his words were much more diplomatic, but the message was that). And thank you for writing that I have prejudice against Israel and not calling me antisemitic, as it is usual on every critic to the genocide Benjamin Netanyahu.