Jerusalem’s leaders are increasingly inclined to bolster civilian aid to Ukraine – including first-time military assistance, amid increasing evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians in the wartorn East European nation.
By Erin Viner
Israeli’s Haaretz news agency is reporting that support for increasing the amount of military and civilian supplies provided to Ukraine by Israeli officials is growing, and that discussion on additional provisions is expected in the coming days.
“The U.S. and European countries are already supplying Ukraine beyond Israel’s capabilities, but Israeli officials fear not sending more help may erode global trust in its defense industries,” said the article.
Haaretz cited a source as saying the United States and some European countries expect Israel to take a clearer stance regarding which side it is on “and to back its decision with deeds and not just statements.”
There is also reported concern in Israel that its military exports of advanced weapons systems around the world could be impacted if those recipients fear that Jerusalem could be obstructed from providing such deliveries in the future over possible political considerations.
The Israeli Defense Ministry has declined to comment on the report.
Israel has condemned the 24 February Russian invasion and expressed solidarity with Kyiv, but has so far held back from fulfilling Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy’s requests for military assistance for what Kyiv views as defensive aid against Moscow.
Zelenskyy, who addressed the Israeli Knesset last month, has expressed appreciation for Israel’s continuous efforts to act as an intermediary with Russia. Israeli Prime Minister Bennett has not only maintained contact with the leaders of both countries since outbreak of the conflict, but he also secretly flew to Moscow to hold direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in early March.
“We are grateful for his efforts, so that sooner or later we will begin to have talks with Russia – possibly in Jerusalem,” President Zelenskyy stated previously, adding, “That’s the right place to find peace, if possible.”
Israel has been wary of straining relations with the Kremlin, which is a powerbroker in neighboring Syria where Israel coordinates strikes against Iranian deployments. Jerusalem and Moscow maintain a defense coordination mechanism in the Arab Republic to prevent clashes between their militaries. Russian forces have been deployed to fight in the Civil War on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime, while Israel frequently launches operations against deployments by Iran and its regional proxies such as the Hezbollah terror group in Syria.
Soon after Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine late February, the Kremlin sought to reassure Israel that the bilateral security coordination would remain unaffected. “Our military officials discuss the practical issues of this substantively on a daily basis. This mechanism has proven to be useful and will continue to work,” declared the Russian Embassy in Israel in a statement on 27 February. In tandem, the Israeli Defense Forces underscored in regard to continued coordination with Russia over Syria that it “will act when needed to counter threats, defend the people of Israel and our sovereignty.”
So far, Israel has shipped an unprecedented level of humanitarian assistance to help Ukrainian civilians including the opening of a field hospital, donated several armored, four-wheel-drive ambulances from Magen David Adom, and about 100 tons of supplies including water purification systems, medical equipment, blankets and coats for civilians. Defense Minister Benny Gantz also authorized delivery of protective vests and helmets to Ukrainian rescue and emergency services.
It would appear that despite pleas from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy, Israeli officials have still held back from reaching agreement on sending the Iron Dome anti-missile system or other air defense systems, advanced weaponry and attack systems as not to spark an outrcry from Russia.
Head of the Political Security Division of Israel’s Defense Ministry Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom was among representatives of 43 other nations, including 29 NATO members, who recently participated in a US-led summit in Germany to discussed international military aid to Ukraine.