Relations between Ukraine and Israel are on the rocks after Ukraine’s Embassy blasted the Israeli government for its "clear pro-Russian position" because it provides no military aid – and Ukraine’s Ambassador has been asked for an explanation of his comments by Jerusalem.
In a blistering statement on its Facebook site, the Ukrainian Embassy on Sunday stated that “the current Israeli government has opted for a path of close cooperation with the Russian Federation.”
In response, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it plans to summons Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Kornichuk, to be reprimanded.
While Israel has provided $22 million USD in humanitarian aid and said that it will provide more in 2023, it has provided no military aid to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Experts believe that a major reason for Israel’s hesitance to provide Ukraine with military aid is the so-called “strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace”.
The Embassy’s statement went further than highlighting Israel’s links to Russia saying: “while the people of Ukraine, including its substantial Jewish community, are bleeding under the onslaught of Russian missiles and Iranian drones, the Israeli leadership, hiding behind verbal demagoguery about their neutrality (albeit no longer concealing it) actively forges relations with the Russian Federation.”
The Embassy’s post said that “in reality on the ground, the so-called ‘neutrality’ of the Israeli government is considered as a clear pro-Russian position.”
Ukraine and Israel are the only countries in the world with Jewish leaders. Recently, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin demeaned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s heritage - much to the outrage of the international Jewish diaspora.
“Regrettably, the Israeli government pays little attention to the opinions of its own people and disregards the pleas of the global Jewish diaspora, who unequivocally support Ukraine in its struggle against Russian state terrorism. We urge the Israeli government to change its position and to support Ukraine with defensive means, to support freedom and democratic world order. We expect Israel to be on the right side of history,” the Ukrainians’ statement continued.
Kornichuk’s scathing attack came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the reasons Israel does not provide military aid to Ukraine in an interview with the Jerusalem Post last week.
In that interview, Netanyahu flaunted Israeli humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but said “it’s important for Israel to be able to continue coordination with Russia to strike Iranian targets in Syria.”
In light of cooperation between Russia and Iran, Netanyahu said he had “concerns that any [military] systems that we give to Ukraine would be used against us because they could fall into Iranian hands and be used against us.”
“It actually happened with the Western anti-tank weapons that we now find at our borders. So we have to be very careful here,” the Israeli PM added.
Kornichuk, in turn, called Netanyahu out. He pointed out that, in terms of anti-tank systems found in Iranian and Syrian hands, “Javelins have been produced for the last 30 years and can be bought on the black market anywhere.”
“There may be progress on humanitarian issues, but you can’t win a war with bandages and antibiotics. We have to have the ability to save people’s lives,” Kornichuk stated.
The Ambassador said that Israel “not providing [Ukraine] with weapons is just a decision to please the Russians.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a briefing that “despite the complexity [of the relationship] with Russia, Israel stood with Ukraine from the beginning of the war until today, publicly supported its territorial integrity and its sovereignty and voted to condemn Russia in international forums.”
In addition, Cohen said in his comments to the Jerusalem Post that “an Israeli missile warning system being tested in Kyiv will save Ukrainian civilians’ lives”.
But, according to The Times of Israel, Kyiv has grown frustrated as the timeline for deployment of the system has been pushed back to September and it has found the loans difficult to access.
“These guys are taking their time,” said Ambassador Kornichuk. “They’re not in a war.”
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