Opinion |

Israel’s Ukraine Policy Is a Disgrace

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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A protester in Tel Aviv at a demonstration against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
A protester in Tel Aviv at a demonstration against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

In July 1970, Israel took the initiative to carry out Operation Rimon 20 in the air on its southern front. In a carefully planned ambush, Israel Air Force planes enticed Soviet MiG jets to take off towards them in the skies over Egypt and then downed five of them. The MiGs were flown by Soviet pilots, three of whom were killed. Two others managed to parachute to the ground. The pilots were dispatched to Egypt as part of a large force that, in addition to the planes, included surface-to-air missile batteries and electronic warfare systems operated by Soviet soldiers.

The vast Soviet Union was still at the height of its power, but that didn’t prevent little Israel from initiating a military confrontation with it. And 12 years later, on the first day of the Lebanon War in 1982, Israel unhesitatingly attacked Syria’s antiaircraft system, destroying 19 Soviet-made surface-to-air missile batteries and smashing the Soviet aerial defense doctrine to smithereens. No one at the time seriously considered refraining from such a step so as “not to anger the Russians.”

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At present, no one is calling for the Israel Defense Forces to be dispatched to Ukraine, but a week into the brutish Russian invasion of a sovereign neighboring country, the picture is clear. Official Israel is stammering, hesitant, frightened, expedient and deceptive. The Western world that we pretend to belong to is closing ranks while we are sitting on the fence.

We’re walking on eggshells, wary of offending Vladimir Putin’s inflated honor. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was even pulled out of a meeting to take an extended phone call from him. The excuse was that it involved Israeli “mediation efforts.” Instead of hanging up on a psychopathic, ruthless dictator, Israel is acting like a Russian client state, nearly an ally.

Israel refrained from endorsing the initial UN Security Council resolution condemning the Russian invasion, while prior to the UN General Assembly session on the issue, it was decided to downgrade Israel’s presence. Instead of UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, Israel was represented by his deputy. How pathetic.

It’s shameful and embarrassing. The truth is that it’s simply an embarrassment to be Israeli these days. Even Israel’s limited humanitarian assistance to the victims of Russian aggression was sent with fear and trepidation. Bennett put it well: We’re assisting Ukraine, but quietly.

And while the countries of Europe are opening their gates to hundreds of thousands of refugees from areas where there is fighting and shelling, in Israel every refugee is being asked to post a 10,000-shekel ($3,100) deposit guaranteeing that they won’t remain in the country. It’s nauseating and buttresses the most malicious anti-Semitic claims about Jewish greed.

Of course, all of this undermines the moral foundation of Israel’s endless claims regarding the world’s inaction during the Holocaust: why the world remained silent, why Auschwitz wasn’t bombed, why the gates were closed to Jewish refugees. And to add ironic insult to injury, on the day Western countries imposed stiff economic sanctions on Russia and its oligarchs, in Israel they were rushing to spare Roman Abramovich because he’s giving tens of millions to Yad Vashem.

It’s hard to believe: Israel’s national Holocaust remembrance institution is taking it upon itself to prop up the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Its donations are more important to it than the fate of millions of Ukrainians under attack. That’s not how a proud, sovereign country acts, one that is confident in its path and its scale of values. It’s the conduct of a shtetl congregation.

Of course, the root of the evil, in addition to the elephant in the room (that we too have an occupation) is the long-standing subservience that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to Putin and to Donald Trump. (Campaign billboards declaring him “in a different league” pictured him with Trump and Putin.)

It’s no wonder that among supporters of Trump and Netanyahu, there’s considerable backing for the invasion and its instigator. But Netanyahu’s no longer in charge here, and it calls for asking the members of the current “government of change,” as they call themselves, to come to their senses and put a stop to this disgrace.

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