Since Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine last year, Israel has been reluctant to get involved to the same extent as its western allies, but there are now signs that this stance could be about to shift.
Remind me, what has been Israel’s stance up to now?
Israel has condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine but has limited its assistance to humanitarian relief.
This has taken a number of forms such as armored ambulances, help for Ukrainian refugees arriving in the country after fleeing the war, and offers to assist with civic programs such as developing air raid alerts for civilians.
What about military aid?
Israel has not provided any direct military aid to Ukraine so far although it has granted NATO countries permission to supply Ukraine with some weapons containing Israeli components.
Is this about to change?
Possibly – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked in an interview with CNN on Tuesday if Israel could provide military assistance to Ukraine.
"Well, I'm certainly looking into it," he said.
He also confirmed that the U.S. has shifted a little-known stockpile of artillery it stations in Israel to Ukraine.
What does Ukraine want from Israel?
Israel has one of the most advanced militaries in the world so there are likely hundreds of things on Kyiv’s wish-list, but top billing almost certainly goes to the Iron Dome air defense system.
This incredible piece of kit is the most effective air defense system in the world and has a 90% success rate at shooting down rockets fired into Israeli territory.
Since Ukraine is under constant missile and drone attacks from Russia, the Iron Dome would be a huge boost for protecting Ukrainian civilians and critical infrastructure.
Why hasn’t Israel already provided military aid to Ukraine?
Israel has a delicate relationship with Russia, which controls the skies in neighboring Syria and has turned a blind eye to Israeli strikes on targets of arch-nemesis Iran.
These strikes were hinted at by Netanyahu during the interview and framed as part of an effort that at least indirectly, helps Ukraine.
He said: “Israel also, frankly, acts in ways that I will not itemize here against Iran's weapons productions which are used against Ukraine.”
What’s he talking about?
Ukrainian and Western officials say Iran has sold low-cost drones to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, although Tehran denies that.
What’s prompted the change in tone from Israel?
The remarks come after a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called for calm following a flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians and also nudged Israel to boost support to Ukraine.
Using language familiar to Israelis, Blinken said Ukraine needs assistance "as it bravely defends its people and its very right to exist," AFP reports.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Blinken that he would travel to Ukraine to reopen his country's embassy, the first such trip since the war.
Anything else I need to know?
Netanyahu also said he was willing to mediate if asked by the parties and the U.S.
"I've been around long enough to know that there has to be a right time and the right circumstances. If they arise, I'll certainly consider it," he said.
Netanyahu said he believed the Ukraine war was of "monumental importance" but added: "We have our own backyard to deal with."
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