image Photo: Flash90, Reuters

Zelenskyy addresses Israeli Knesset

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Israeli lawmakers to become more proactive in support for his country following Russia’s 24 February invasion.

By Erin Viner

Saying “I know that you recognize our pain” and that “fatal indifference, calculations can be wrong,” the Ukrainian leader questioned Israel’s reluctance to sell its Iron Dome missile defense system to his nation.

“Everybody knows that your missile defense systems are the best… and that you can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews,” said the beleaguered leader, who is of Jewish heritage, during a video link address to the Israeli parliament.

The address comes as the latest in a series of appeals the Ukrainian leader made for help from abroad.

During his Knesset address, also asked “why hasn’t Israel imposed powerful sanctions on Russia or put pressure on Russian business – either way, the choice is yours to make, brothers and sisters, and you must then live with your answer.”

Asserting that “the Ukrainians have had their choice 80 years ago” by saving Jews during the Holocaust, Zelenskyy said: “The people of Israel, now you also have a choice.”

Zelenskyy, whose grandfather served as a Colonel in the Soviet Union’s Red Army in WWII, went on to drawing an analogy between the current Russian offensive and the atrocities committed against the Jewish People by the Third Reich. “Listen to the words of the Kremlin, they use the terminology of the Nazi party, so it’s a tragedy that they wanted to exterminate all Europe; they did not want to spare any one of you and now any of us, they called this the Final Solution.”

Switching from his usual Ukrainian to Russian in his remarks, he said: “Russian propagandists have a tough job on their hands today. For the first time, a Ukrainian president spoke to the parliament of Israel and, by video recording, to the people of Israel – a Ukrainian accused of Nazism by Moscow. This very fact already proves that things are not as Moscow says,” he insisted.

While sympathetic to Kyiv’s humanitarian plight, comparison made between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Nazi genocide of the Jewish People has evoked scathing rebuke from Jerusalem.

Israel has condemned the Russian invasion, expressed solidarity with Kyiv and sent shipped unprecedented levels of aid to Ukraine; but has so far held back from fulfilling Zelenskyy’s requests for military assistance.

It is imperative that Jerusalem maintain good relations with Russia, as the two countries utilize a defense coordination mechanism in Syria to prevent clashes between their militaries. Russian forces have been deployed to fight in the Syrian 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 the neighboring Arab Republic.

Moscow has affirmed ongoing military cooperation with Jerusalem regardless of its war with Kyiv.

The Jewish State has also launched “Operation Returning Home” aimed at rescuing endangered Ukrainian Jews who may want to emigrate into the country of just over 9.3 million; as well as offer safe refuge to some 25,000 Ukrainians who are not eligible for immigration

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid thanked Zelenskyy for sharing his feelings and the plight of the Ukrainian people with members of the Knesset and the government.”

“We will continue to assist the Ukrainian people as much as we can and we will never turn our backs to the plight of people who know the horrors of war,” vowed Lapid, who also serves as Israeli Alternate Premier.

During his later daily video update to Ukrainians, Zelenskyy expressed appreciation for continuous efforts by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to act as an intermediary with Russia. Bennett has not only maintained continuous 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 last week.

“We are grateful for his efforts, so that sooner or later we will begin to have talks with Russia – possibly in Jerusalem,” said President Zelenskyy, adding, “That’s the right place to find peace, if possible.”