Israeli President Congratulates Belarus Strongman, Shunned by the West, on National Day

President Rivlin 'sadly slipped into dictator Lukashenko’s blood-filled hands,' argues Belarusian-Israeli who was beaten at an anti-government protest

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends wreath laying ceremony on the outskirts of the capital Minsk, on Saturday.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends wreath laying ceremony on the outskirts of the capital Minsk, on Saturday.Credit: Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin congratulated Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko on the occasion of his country’s Independence Day on Saturday, sending him "good wishes" for his "personal well-being and for the ongoing progress and prosperity of your country and its people."

According to the Belarusian presidential website, Israel joined a list of mostly authoritarian countries – including Turkey, Turkmenistan, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority – in offering congratulations to the longtime president, largely shunned by Western leaders.

LISTEN: For LGBTQ minorities, Israel’s ‘gay paradise’ can be hell

An Israeli government source told Haaretz that "Israel shows sensitivity to the well-being of the Jewish community In Belarus and therefore prefers not to confront the Lukashenko administration," which is facing harsh sanctions from the United States and European Union after it diverted a passenger jet to arrest a dissident journalist last month.

A spokesman for President Rivlin said the letter “was sent according to the normal practice of the Foreign Ministry on national days of countries with which the State of Israel has diplomatic relations.” He referred further inquiries to the Foreign Ministry, which did not comment.

Belarus has been rocked by months of protests fueled by Lukashenko’s reelection to a sixth term in an August 2020 election that was widely seen as rigged. Authorities responded to the demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.

Israeli digital intelligence company Cellebrite announced in March that it would stop selling its technology to Russia and Belarus after it was used to hack opposition forces and minorities in the countries.

Rivlin's English-language letter, published by Israel's Kan public broadcaster, reads: "Relations between our two nations are founded in a long shared history,” citing several Israeli presidents and prime ministers who hailed from Belarus and saying that “the community of former Belarus citizens in Israel serves as a human bridge strengthening the relations between our two countries.”

Reuven Rivlin at the 2021 Israel State Cup Final in Tel Aviv, last month.Credit: Nir Keidar

Rivlin also wished Lukashenko "good health and success in overcoming the health and economic challenges of this past year" of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alexander Fruman, a Belarusian-Israeli originally from Minsk who was beaten during anti-Lukashenko protests last year, told Haaretz that while he always thought of Rivlin as a “fair president with a strong sense of justice,” the president has “sadly slipped into dictator Lukashenko’s blood-filled hands.”

“All my friends, both in Israel and in Belarus, do not understand how Israel gives legitimacy to the dictator through the activities of the ambassador in Minsk,” Fruman said, adding that he no longer believes in the “myth that Israel always protects its citizens.”

Last month, Israel's ambassador to Minsk raised eyebrows when he publicly endorsed stronger ties between the two countries and called for increased Israeli tourism to Belarus.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage