Israel torn by war in Ukraine



“The State of Israel stands with the Ukrainian people” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday March 2, during a speech on the occasion of the visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. This was the latest ambiguous statement from the Israeli leadership on the war in Ukraine: since the beginning of the Russian invasion, it has been trying to “dance between the drops” as we say in Hebrew, so as not to offend Russia.

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Israel is moved but struggles to condemn Moscow directly, despite the irritation of the American political class, which does not understand that Israel refuses, among other things, to sell arms to Ukraine. “I’m going to give them a call” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, known for his pro-Israel positions, warned Tuesday on Fox News, recalling that the United States was financing the powerful Israeli missile shield Iron Dome.

Kremlin status quo on Israeli strikes

However, Israel has no choice: it must spare its “neighbor to the north”. Mistress in Syria since its intervention in 2015, Russia turns a blind eye to the frequent Israeli strikes aimed at weakening Hezbollah and Iranian positions. Before each attack, Israel warns the Russian forces to avoid losses. Israeli diplomacy seems to have obtained from the Kremlin that this status quo, which seemed to be crumbling before the start of the war, is respected – for now.

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In the Israeli opposition, we take advantage of the confusion. Binyamin Netanyahu, who had invested heavily in the relationship with Vladimir Putin, criticizes the Bennett government for its insistence on talking about Ukraine when it should focus, according to him, on the Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna.

The proximity between Israel and Russia is not only strategic. Nearly a fifth of Israel’s Jewish population is Russian-speaking, which has helped ease relations with Moscow. In 2014, during the annexation of Crimea, the debates were heated between pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine camps. The Israeli media this time adopt a less partisan coverage of the conflict: no Ukrainian flag is displayed as in France on television screens.

Annoyance of the Palestinians

Public opinion, on the other hand, is more clear-cut today. The Israeli street, which considers that Ukraine is part of the Western community, willingly dons yellow and blue. Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the Russian Embassy last week and outpourings of solidarity with Ukrainians are multiplying, from remote psychological support to the announced departure of volunteers.

Among the Palestinians, on both sides of the green line, this humanitarian position is irritating. We are more on the Ukrainian side, while noting the lack of coherence of Western positions. It is hard to understand how the international community can support Ukrainian civilians taking up arms, but accuse the Palestinians of terrorism. We are exasperated by the condemnations of the Russian invasion in the Israeli media, which do not want to see the parallel with the situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Massive support for the Jewish community in Ukraine

The war triggered a major operation to support the Jewish community in Ukraine. They would be more than 200,000 to have at least one Jewish grandparent and therefore to be able to apply for Israeli nationality, according to the so-called law of “return”. To the Jewish Agency for Israel, the parastatal organization that facilitates thealiyahit’s the commotion.

The Jewish Agency has abandoned the idea of ​​bringing Jews to Ukraine, but six reception centers have been opened in four neighboring countries. More than 3,000 immigration applications have reportedly been registered since the start of the war. The first 300 arrivals, including 100 orphans, will land on Sunday February 27. Eventually, the Jewish Agency expects about 10,000 olimnew arrivals, with adapted integration paths.

Some are irritated by this selective generosity. On Tuesday, March 1, the Ukrainian ambassador condemned Israel’s refusal to let dozens of Ukrainians into its territory at Tel Aviv airport. They could not pay a bond of almost €5,000, imposed to officially fight against “illegal” immigration.

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