Under U.S. Pressure, Israel Issues First Statement on Ukraine Crisis

Terse statement, which precedes Lieberman-Kerry meeting in Rome, is careful not to insult Russia or President Vladimir Putin.

After pressure from the United States government, the Israeli government issued its first official statement on the crisis in Ukraine Wednesday night. In its laconic statement, Israel did not comment on the Russian invasion into Crimea but only underscored that it hopes the crisis will be solved peacefully.

"Israel is following developments in Ukraine with great concern for the well-being of all its citizens, and hopes the situation does not deteriorate to the point of loss of life," the statement read, which was published by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's office. "Israel expects the crisis in Ukraine to be solved diplomatically and peacefully."

The statement was issued after a long silence by the government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to address the issue in recent days and Lieberman did not speak about it either. Jerusalem's radio silence was especially conspicuous in light of the fact that most Western countries, especially U.S. allies, sharply criticized the Russian invasion and expressed support for Ukraine's territorial sovereignty.

A source at the Foreign Ministry noted that in recent days, the U.S. increased pressure on Israel to issue a statement, ahead of the meeting scheduled to take place in Rome on Thursday between Lieberman and his counterpart U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The statement was ultimately publicized just hours before Lieberman's departure for Rome. It is unclear whether the terse statement, which was careful not to insult Russia or President Vladimir Putin, will satisfy the Americans.

Kerry will also be meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Rome.
 

Emil Salman