Israel meddling in Ukraine crisis
Israel became embroiled in the global crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by attempting to mediate between the two sides after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s shuttle diplomacy.
Bennett met Russian President Vladimir Putin during an unannounced visit earlier this week and communicated with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Israeli moves, which Tel Aviv says are in coordination with the US, France and Germany, were followed by Bennett’s meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Latvia to inform them of the outcome of his meeting with Putin. in Moscow.
However, the United States did not commend Israel for taking such a step, raising questions about Bennett’s motives. His attempt to mediate parallels the mediation efforts of Belarus, which has hosted talks between Russia and Ukraine, and Turkish mediation which wants to arrange a meeting between the two sides. Washington is also unhappy with the ambiguity of Israel’s position on the Ukrainian crisis.
Several Israeli analysts say Bennett’s decision to mediate in the crisis stems from personal motives, as he wishes to increase his popularity in his country and gain international recognition for having mediated in one of the world’s most serious crises. worst in the world since the Second World War.
They believe Bennett’s efforts in this crisis are an “uncalculated gamble.”
Israeli concerns about Bennett’s mediation are also due to uncertainties over whether Washington backs it, which could further escalate tensions between the two countries over the Ukraine crisis. His attempts are unlikely to succeed due to Tel Aviv‘s inability to pressure Moscow and Kyiv.
Israel needs good relations with Russia to be able to act freely against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria. Israel’s relationship with Ukraine is also complex because tens of thousands of Jews live in Ukraine.
Israel does not want to irritate the Ukrainian regime and its allies, in order to protect these Jews. As a result, Israel was forced to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine but without joining the anti-Russian camp.
Israeli Jews of Ukrainian descent have left their mark on the Israeli state since its creation in 1948. Most notably, former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Peace Accord with the Organization of Liberation of Palestine (PLO), and Israel’s most famous prime minister, Golda Meir, were of Ukrainian descent.
Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, whom Israel considers one of the most influential figures in the first 30 years of Israel’s creation, was also of Ukrainian descent. Dayan played a key role in formulating the Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt when he was foreign minister.
Zelensky, who often calls Judaism his religion, has adopted policies that extend the special relationship between Kyiv and Tel Aviv. He was one of the first world leaders to recognize occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and he moved his country’s embassy there once former US President Donald Trump took a similar step.
Zelensky went beyond supporting Israel by saying the challenges his country and Israel face are “similar.” He compared the “suffering” of the peoples of Israel and Ukraine.
At the Jewish Forum in Kiev last year, as the United States and Western countries warned of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky said that “we know what it’s like not to have our own state. We know what it means to defend one’s own state and land with arms in hand at the cost of one’s own life.
“Ukrainians and Jews value freedom, and they also work for the future of their states to become to their liking and not for the future that others want for them. Israel is often an example for Ukraine,” he said.
When in early March Russian planes bombed the Ukrainian TV tower in the capital Kiev, located near the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial, Zelensky immediately tweeted in Hebrew urging Jews everywhere to show their support for his country.
He said he has family in Israel and has been there several times, adding: “Now I speak to all the Jews of the world. Can’t see what’s going on? For this reason, it is very important that millions of Jews around the world do not remain silent now. »
The special relationship between Israel and Ukraine was cut short when Israel refused to supply Ukraine with defense systems to avoid upsetting Moscow. Israel again refused to supply these systems before and during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, Israel has stepped up its humanitarian aid to Ukraine and established a field hospital there in a bid to defuse Kiev’s anger.
Israel has also taken advantage of the Ukraine crisis to speed up the rate of arrival of Jews of Ukrainian descent to Israel, and it has established settlements on Palestinian land to house them.
Israel announced it had received some 2,000 Ukrainian Jews, and Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said there were 200,000 Ukrainians eligible to emigrate to Israel under Israel’s ‘Law of Return’. Israel for Jews around the world.
Shaked, however, stressed that Israel does not want to receive Ukrainian citizens since Europe is open to them and that Israel would find it difficult to receive the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war.
A Palestinian report released by a PLO-affiliated institution said Israel is building 1,000 housing units in the settlements to house Jews from Ukraine. The report says Israel aims to house them in residential buildings of varying sizes in compounds for new Jewish immigrants. They will be located near the northern border in the Negev, Wadi Araba and Wadi Yanabie near the Beisan regions and in the Jordan Valley.
Observers believe that the Ukraine crisis is a serious challenge to Israeli policy as Tel Aviv tries to take positions that satisfy all parties, despite the strong polarization around the world over the war in Ukraine.
Israel wants to make the most of the crisis by mediating peace on the world stage and focusing attention on the strength of the government in place.
He also wants to create a demographic advantage at the expense of Palestinians by welcoming hundreds of thousands of Jews from Ukraine, persuading them to live in Israel and promoting the notion of a “national home” for Jews of different nationalities around the world. .
*A version of this article appeared in the March 10, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.