Russia condemned the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights on Wednesday and said it does not recognize Israel's sovereignty in the region.
The statement, issued before Russia's all-out assault on Ukraine, followed Israel's first official statement of support for Ukraine in the unfolding crisis and appeared to be a Russian message to Israel.
"We are concerned over Tel Aviv’s announced plans for expanding settlement activity in the occupied Golan Heights, which directly contradicts the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention," said Russia's United Nations envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched large-scale attacks across Ukraine on Thursday.
Speaking at the UN Security Council’s monthly briefing on the Middle East, he stressed "Russia’s unchanging position, according to which we do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that are an inalienable part of Syria."
On Wednesday afternoon, Israel's Foreign Ministry issued its first statement supporting Ukraine since the start of the conflict. Israel deliberately refrained from mentioning Russia or President Putin in the statement, which stated support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, reflecting the complicated position Israel has found itself in over the crisis.
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Israel has an interest in maintaining neutrality in order to prevent a conflict that would make it difficult to continue its attacks in Syria, where Russia has a military presence.
The statement, which was approved by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, also expressed Israel's readiness to transfer immediate humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and said Israel is engaged in dialogue with its partners on ways to restore the diplomatic path.
While the Ukrainians declined to comment on Wednesday's statement officially, a diplomatic source who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly indicated that it did not go far enough to suit his government.
“This is better than nothing, but this isn’t the statement we expected,” the source told Haaretz.
Speaking by phone from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Wednesday, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky told Haaretz that while the statement did not constitute an outright condemnation of Russia, it was “far stronger than our usual position.”