Israel denied a request by Moscow to let a Russian missile boat anchor at Haifa a month ago, making the decision against the backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine, said a senior official in Jerusalem involved in the matter.
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Israeli officials were worried that allowing a Russian naval vessel to visit Haifa would worsen tensions with the United States. There were also concerns about possible espionage.
The request was handled by the national security adviser, Yossi Cohen. He asked for the opinion of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service, and the Foreign Ministry. All opinions were negative and the request was denied.
The official said Israel strives to maintain neutrality in the big powers’ confrontation over Ukraine; pictures of a Russian warship at Israel’s main naval base would convey that Israel was siding with Moscow.
Israel did not wish to further anger the U.S. administration, which has been unhappy with Jerusalem’s position regarding the Ukrainian crisis. The Americans were surprised and disappointed when Israel did not support the American proposal that the UN General Assembly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory.
The Shin Bet also believed that a docking by the Russian ship could facilitate Russian espionage activities in Israel. There were reasons to believe that a similar visit last year was a cover for spying.