Israel refuses repeated Ukrainian requests for arms

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) welcomes his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog (2ndL) ahead of their meeting at Mariinskyi Palace in Kiev on 5 October 2021. [SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel has rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's request to supply his country with weapons, according to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth. The request came during a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday. However, Israel has announced that two planes loaded with humanitarian aid for Ukraine are flying to Poland today.

Senior US officials have told Israel that the US will look favourably on it supplying Ukraine with weapons, said the newspaper. However, Israel is reluctant to adopt a position that will anger Russia, given the security coordination between Moscow and Tel Aviv regarding Israeli attacks against Iranian targets in Syria. This is attracting criticism of the Israeli leadership inside Israel itself and in the US.

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that Israel would support a motion condemning Russia at the UN, but the newspaper quoted an Israeli official as saying: "Everyone understands that this is too little and too late, and we should do much more. The countries that have much to lose are taking a clear line. Germany changed a decision that was among its strict principles and decided to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. It is only Israel, which always seeks to remind others that they did not stand by it or by the Jewish people during dark times, although it has the ability to contribute at least to Ukrainian defence, [which] is doing anything to do nothing."

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Senior Israeli officials said that Ukraine has increased its requests for military equipment and intelligence from Israel over the past year. Israel did not respond to most of these requests "due to sensitivity from the Jewish community, as well as the need to coordinate operations with Russia in Syria."

Yedioth Ahronoth pointed out that a high-ranking Ukrainian delegation made one of these requests during a visit to Israel last August. The delegation requested a meeting with representatives of Elbit and Aerospace Industries to purchase drones, some of which have offensive capabilities, but the Israeli authorities did not approve of such contacts. Ukraine has bought military drones from Turkey which are being used in the current war.