Israeli Mediation More Important to Us Than Weapons, Ukraine Envoy Says

'What are they afraid of?': Ambassador condemns Israel's unwillingness to provide Ukraine with protective military equipment as Russia fighting continues

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
Women protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian consulate in Haifa, last month.
Women protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian consulate in Haifa, last month.Credit: Rami Shllush
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

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel thanked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for his mediation efforts over the weekend and compared Russia's invasion of Ukraine to Israel's Yom Kippur War, in which Israel dealt "with an enemy with much greater and with stronger weapons."

"The fact itself that the prime minister left during Shabbat to talk about peace is unprecedented," Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk told reporters during a press conference at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon, adding that Bennett's efforts, which took him to Russia and Germany, were "more important than sales of weapons or munitions.”

“Jerusalem is a possible place for negotiations, for meetings at the highest level,” Korniychuk added.

Tracking the Russian invasion of UkraineCredit: Reuters

And while Kyiv is still “fighting for” military aid, “we understand” the sentiments governing Jerusalem’s hesitancy to violate its tenuous neutrality in the conflict, Korniychuk said, in a reference to Jerusalem’s stated need to maintain security coordination with Russian forces in Syria.

However, the ambassador nonetheless condemned Israel's unwillingness to provide helmets and body armor to Ukraine, asking "What are they afraid of? To provide personal security for Ukrainians?"

“Can you please tell me how you can kill with this thing?" Korniychuk asked rhetorically, placing a helmet on his head. “What are they afraid of? To provide personal security for Ukrainians?”

The ambassador also hinted at a lack of communication at the hands of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. When asked why Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has not spoken with his Israeli counterpart in several months, Korniychuk first replied that “there was nothing in particular” that would prevent such a call but that “they are too busy.”

However, when pressed on the matter he countered that he had not said that it was Kuleba who lacked the time for a conversation, adding “I’ll be happy to facilitate this phone call if Minister Lapid will wish to speak to Minister Kuleba.”

On Sunday morning, less than a day after his visit to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Bennett said that Israel will continue to assist on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, “even if the chances [of succeeding] are not great.”

Volunteers pack clothing and medication at the Ukrainian cultural center in Tel Aviv, on Monday.Credit: Sam Sokol

According to a statement by his office, the prime minister believes attempts to reach a solution are a “moral duty.”

Korniychuk’s comments appeared to show a change in tone from earlier critiques of Israel’s role in the conflict. During a briefing last month, several days after the Russian invasion, he had charged that Jerusalem had thus far failed to live up to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s expectations.

“We appreciate everything Israel has done for us,” he said, but “you can’t imagine how difficult it is for me to be ambassador to Israel if my president is a Jew – because he has much higher expectations of Israel than Israel can deliver,” he said during a briefing for reporters on February 28.

Several days later, Korniychuk complained that despite an Israeli offer of 100 tons of medical supplies, the “water purifiers and blankets” provided did not match the items on the wish list provided to Jerusalem.

However, speaking in Tel Aviv on Monday, the ambassador praised Israel for its subsequent offer of a full field-hospital, stating that its provision was “very timely and important,” adding that Israeli civilians had offered so much in the way of supplies that the embassy was unable to handle the volume.

“We very much appreciate your efforts and help and urge you to stop it because we need time to transport it and organize the stocks,” he said, calling on Israelis with relatives in Russia to call and “explain what their country is doing.”

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