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'Israel-Ukraine tensions may continue under Netanyahu'

November 18, 2022 at 2:23 pm

A protest in Tel Aviv against Russia’s attack on Ukraine on 12 March 2022 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israel is yet to respond to Kyiv’s demand for air defence systems in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine, now in its ninth month, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Israel’s pro-Kyiv policies did not go beyond the declaration of support for Ukraine against the Russian offensive, rejecting the referendum in the regions annexed by Russia, and the provision of humanitarian aid in the war.

Nonetheless, Ukraine considers these steps insufficient.

Israel also imposed restrictions on the visa application for Ukrainians, while the two countries voted against each other in the United Nations.

Israel under Netanyahu

Shimon Stein, a senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former Israeli ambassador to Berlin, told Anadolu Agency that Tel Aviv is not expected to make a serious change in favour of Ukraine during the reign of Benjamin Netanyahu, the new Prime Minister of the country.

Stein said: “Netanyahu has shortly before the election said that he will then think about the whole issue, whether that means that he will deviate from the current line remains to be seen.”

The diplomatic tension between Israel and Ukraine reached fever pitch in the 11 November UN vote concerning the Palestinian draft on the Israeli Occupation.

Ukraine voted in favour of Palestine, which led Israel to summon the Ukrainian ambassador to Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv accused Kyiv of “being on the same side as Iran”.

“Ukraine’s display of such behaviour does not reflect the relations between friendly countries with common values,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a message to Ukrainian Ambassador, Yevgen Korniychuk.

READ: Ukraine war ignites the arms race in the Middle East

Referring to this development, Stein said: “I don’t understand why Ukraine at this moment, when they’re asking for help from Israel, has voted in favour of sending that question to The Hague.”

Ukraine’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Korniychuk, conveyed his country’s “anger” to Israel over “preventing Ukrainians’ entry to Israel.”

While Ukraine’s Western allies lifted visa restrictions on Ukrainians after the war, Tel Aviv cancelled the visa-free travel agreement between the two countries.

Ukraine was also disappointed that Israel “abstained” from the 14 November UN vote concerning Russia’s payment of war reparations to Ukraine.

Stein said: “We always have in mind the significant Jewish community in Russia, which is always an argument that weighs on Israel’s decision with respect to Russia.”

“Netanyahu has a close relationship with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, he went to Moscow many times during his term as Prime Minister in order to discuss, first and foremost, the whole situation over Syria,” he added.

‘Operational restrictions’

Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, slammed Israel’s policies toward his country.

Reznikov criticised Israel’s “operational restrictions”, which builds its security policy on the Western axis, yet refuses to provide arms to Ukraine on the grounds of Russian military presence in Syria.

Reznikov, referring to the use of Iranian-made armed unmanned aerial vehicles (SIHA) by Russia in Ukraine, said: “The Iranians gain operational experience by fighting in Ukraine. These SIHAs will be used against Israel in the future.”

Stein stated that Israel would not compromise its relation with Russia by sending weapons.

He said: “We continued to support humanitarian aid. We’re also exchanging some intelligence regarding the Iranian operation with drones. But beyond that, if you asked me, will Israel deliver weapons? I don’t know.”

US turns blind eye

Israel’s long-standing special relationship with the United States has become controversial, particularly in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Stein said: “the United States is fully aware of Israel’s position, which has to do with the Russian presence in Syria.”

“As long as the US turns a blind eye and doesn’t put pressure on Israel to side clearly with Ukraine, if we have that margin to manoeuvre, I don’t see any reason why the Israeli government position would change,” he added.

READ: Ukraine war ignites the arms race in the Middle East