Editorial |

Israel Cannot Stand on the Sidelines of the Ukraine Crisis

Refugees from Ukraine line up to get in to Poland on border crossing in Medyka, in eastern Poland on Monday
Refugees from Ukraine line up to get in to Poland on border crossing in Medyka, in eastern Poland on MondayCredit: WOJTEK RADWANSKI - AFP

Israel’s expectation that its difficulty with denouncing Russia and opening its doors to refugees from the war in Ukraine will be treated with forgiveness is a disgrace to the state. Israel behaves as if it’s the only country in history that has had something to lose by taking an unequivocal position on a global crisis, the only one that has ever been torn between conflicting interests, the only one for which opening its door to refugees would have demographic, economic and other consequences.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, voiced disappointment at the Interior Ministry’s decision to restrict the entry into Israel of Ukrainians. On Monday, he said that ever since the crisis began, the Israeli government has not met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s expectations. As a Jew, it turns out, Zelenskyy “has much higher expectations of Israel than Israel can deliver.”

His disappointment is understandable. Israel cannot preach for more than 70 years about how the world stood on the sidelines and closed its gates to refugees and then, at the moment of truth, do exactly the same thing itself, and even believe it is right to do so. Unlike many European countries, which are allowing refugees from Ukraine to enter with no conditions, Israel continues to view them as “infiltrators.” Since the war broke out, some 50 Ukrainians have been denied entry, according to Population and Immigration Authority data.

“Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are allowing hundreds of thousands of our people to come with no ID,” the ambassador said. “This is completely insane.” Monday night, the Interior Ministry updated its rules on the entry of Ukrainians, but the conditions it has set are no less embarrassing. According to the updated rules, Ukrainian refugees can enter Israel only if they were invited by Israeli citizens who post financial guarantees for them and promise on their behalf that they will not settle in Israel permanently.

Israel cannot give itself dispensations. At a time when the world is mobilizing to help Ukrainians fleeing their country, Israel is defending its borders against any threat to the purity of the Jewish nation. This is unforgivable. And the world is watching it all. If Israel doesn’t wake up and recognize that it is part of the international community, and that it has duties as well as rights, there will be a price to pay.

Israel must join the international effort to offer shelter to refugees from the war in Ukraine. It must allow anyone fleeing the battles to stay here with their relatives and friends without demanding that they post guarantees. It’s very strange that the Ukrainian consul had to tell the Knesset Special Committee on Foreign Workers Tuesday what ought to be self-evident: – Ukraine isn’t asking Israel to let these refugees stay forever; it’s merely asking for practical measures to help people in need.

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