What happened: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Prime Minister Bennett was circumspect, speaking yesterday at a graduation ceremony for new IDF officers, Bennett noted, “The world order we’ve been accustomed to is changing. The world is less stable; our region, too, is changing from day to day. These times are showing us that warfare between armies is sadly not a thing of the past.”
- He added, “At the current moment, the State of Israel is positioned as an anchor of strength, of security and of hope. Every Israeli always knows there is a home to return to, that he has someone looking out for him in time of need.”
- Foreign Minister Lapid stuck a more defiant tone telling journalists, “The Russian attack on Ukraine is a serious violation of the international order. Israel condemns the attack, and is ready and prepared to provide humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Ukraine. Israel is a country that has experienced wars, and war is not the way to resolve conflicts.”
- Israel is not expected to join other Western countries in imposing sanctions on Russia.
Context: The US, UK and other western governments, understand Israel’s predicament with Russia a de facto neighbour in Syria. Israel’s freedom of movement in the skies above Syria, preventing Iranian weapon smuggling and military entrenchment has been facilitated by the deconfliction mechanism coordinated with Russia.
- Israel is reliant on this coordination with Russia to protect vital Israeli security interests.
- Just this week, (according to Syrian sources) Israel struck twice:
- On Wednesday night Israel attacked targets in Damascus. Syria claimed three soldiers were killed and severe damage was caused.
- On Tuesday night Israel reportedly fired surface-to-surface missiles at military targets in the Quneitra area, causing extensive damage.
- On Wednesday, ahead of the Russian invasion, Israel released a carefully calibrated statement noting: “Israel shares the concern of the international community regarding the steps taken in eastern Ukraine and the serious escalation in the situation. Israel hopes for a diplomatic solution which will lead to calm, and is willing to help if asked. Israel supports the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine.”
- In response, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN tweeted, “We’re concerned over Tel Aviv’s announced plans for expanding settlement activity in the occupied Golan Heights, which contradicts the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention. Russia doesn’t recognise Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights that are part of Syria.”
- In parallel, Russia has received support from Syria and the Houthis in Yemen. In addition, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone yesterday offering support and denouncing NATO expansion.
- Israel’s primary concern is humanitarian, helping those Israelis (estimated 7,000-8,000) that are now trying to leave the country.
- Israel is also open to receiving Ukrainian Jews who wish to move to Israel as a safe haven.
- Whilst Israel does not want to damage ties with Russia, Israel is also keen to be on the right side of history, stand with the US, UK and western allies and support Ukrainian independence.
Looking ahead: Israel will have a choice to make whether to back a US resolution when it come to a vote in the UN General Assembly later today.
- Prime Minister Bennett yesterday reiterated, “Israel will mobilise to extend humanitarian aid as needed. We have the capability; we are experienced and we will help Ukraine’s citizens as much as possible.”
- Following consultations last night, Israel will focus its efforts:
- To evacuate Israelis from the area.
- Offer assistance to the Jewish community in Ukraine and prepare to receive new immigrants.
- Humanitarian aid to Ukraine; Israel is expected to send medicine, medical equipment, and generators to Ukraine over the next few days.