Ukraine 'Disappointed' by Lack of Support From Israel During Russia Crisis

Relationship with Israel 'cannot be unilateral,' Ukrainian diplomat says, claiming efforts to solicit Israeli support are underway

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol
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Ukrainian soldiers participate in a military drill at the training center of Ground Forces near Rivne, Ukraine, February 16, 2022.
Ukrainian soldiers participate in a military drill at the training center of Ground Forces near Rivne, Ukraine, February 16, 2022. Credit: ANTONIO BRONIC / REUTERS
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

Kyiv is “disappointed” that Israel has not stepped up its diplomatic and moral support for Ukraine in the face of a Russian troop buildup on its borders, a Ukrainian diplomatic source told Haaretz on Wednesday, stating that the relations between the two countries “cannot be unilateral.”

Israel is currently attempting to balance its relations with both Russia and Ukraine as Moscow amasses over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, threatening to reignite a simmering conflict that has largely degenerated into static trench warfare in recent years.

Jerusalem’s response to the conflict is constrained by the need to maintain security coordination with Russian forces in Syria as well as the presence of large Jewish communities in both Ukraine and Russia.

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“We’re not asking for weapons, but for moral support and diplomatic effort,” the source told Haaretz, expressing anger that Sunday’s meeting between Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzhaparova, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid did not result in a statement of support.

“There was no reaction whatsoever and Kyiv is disappointed. She repeatedly invited Lapid to visit Ukraine and maybe Russia afterward and use diplomatic efforts again and again, but there was no answer,” the official said.

Ukrainian officials believe that Israel is uniquely positioned to mediate between the two Eastern European nations but thus far, Israel has not played a significant role in attempts to end the crisis.

In an attempt to prevent damage to the relations with Russia, the U.S., and Ukraine, the Prime Minister’s office has ordered ministers not to express support for either side. The ministers were asked to “keep a low profile,” cut down on interviews on the topic, and to stick to a judicious message sheet distributed to them.

A senior Israeli source said this week that for the time being, Moscow and Washington are not pressuring Israel to take a stand in the conflict. The source added that there is no expectation of Israel to mediate between the sides, although in recent months, as in the past few days, there have been attempts to recruit senior Israeli figures to pass messages between the three countries.

During a press conference on Sunday evening, Lapid stated that Ukraine has asked Israel for “all kinds of assistance” but that “Israel is not involved in this conflict, and that is why it is acting with caution.”

He did admit that he had spoken with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the request of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but that Israeli mediation attempts “were no different from other countries' attempts.”

It's unclear when the Lapid-Lavrov call took place.

According to the Ukrainian diplomatic source, Ukraine is currently engaged in “additional steps” meant to solicit Israeli support, including the Ukrainian parliament’s passage of a bill establishing financial penalties and prison terms for those convicted of hate crimes against Jews on Tuesday.

According to local media reports, once signed by President Zelensky, the new law would allow for penalties of up to 8500 Hryvnias in fines or five years in prison.

The Ukrainian diplomat referred to this move as Ukraine making steps towards Israel in hopes that it will reciprocate.

Jonathan Lis contributed to this report.

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