Israel's Response to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Israel's Public Stance on the Russian Invasion:
- Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- On Thursday, February 24, Lapid tweeted, “The Russian attack on Ukraine is a serious violation of international order, Israel condemns the attack, is ready and prepared to provide humanitarian aid to the citizens of Ukraine. Israel is a war-torn country, war is not the way to resolve conflicts.”
- However, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s initial public statements did not criticize Russia directly. He instead vaguely communicated that “these are difficult, tragic times.”
- On Monday, February 28, Lapid declared Israel’s decision to co-sponsor a United Nations Resolution condemning the Russian invasion.
- Israel, despite U.S. President Biden’s request, initially refrained from co-sponsoring this resolution in an effort to maintain neutrality throughout the conflict.
- Israel has yet to enact sanctions against Russia.
Why Aim for Neutrality?
- Israel is a strategic partner of the United States and has received bilateral assistance and missile defense funding from the U.S. From this perspective, Israel is Western-aligned and thus incentivized to pose a pro-Ukrainian stance on the conflict.
- According to the Congressional Research Service, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.”
- The Biden administration requested $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Assistance for Israel in fiscal year 2022.
- Ukraine is home to 200,000 Jews who could migrate to Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
- Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haya conveyed, "We'll be happy to receive any Jew that wants to immigrate from Ukraine to Israel."
- Simultaneously, Israel coordinates with Russia on select military operations, particularly in Syria.
- Israel shares its northern border with Syria, where Russia has served as an integral partner in backing the Syrian government in effort to combat militant and terrorist activity since 2015.
- In Syria, there are Iranian backed fighters, such as Hezbollah, who also support the Syrian government but pose a threat to Israel's national security.
- As a result, Israel must liaise with Russia when the Israeli Air Force conducts airstrikes against these Iranian-backed fighters. The strikes are often aimed at disrupting the transportation route of weapons intended to be used against Israel.
- Due to these geopolitical considerations, Israel strives to remain on positive terms with conflicting nations, each of whom serve as a major player in Israel’s international and security objectives.