Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov stressed Thursday that Moscow “is relying on a more balanced Israeli role and position” regarding what is happening in Ukraine.
Bogdanov valued Russian-Israeli relations and said in a press statement that Russia “expects Israel to take a more objective position on the conflict in Ukraine.”
But he added, “Some Israeli positions on Ukraine have left Russia feeling let down.”
On Wednesday, Israel announced that it had delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests to emergency services and civil organizations in Ukraine, following Kyiv’s request for supplies.
Israel, which mediated the Ukraine-Russia crisis, condemned the Russian military operation but limited its supplies to Ukraine to humanitarian relief.
Ukraine has previously expressed frustration with Israel’s refusal to provide what it sees as defensive aid against Russia.
At the beginning of the month, Russian-Israeli relations were tense following statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in which he stated that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots.
Israel denounced these statements and sought an apology from Moscow, summoning the Russian ambassador to denounce Lavrov’s comments in an interview with Italian television.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Lavrov’s statements were “disgraceful and unforgivable, a grave historical error, and we expect an apology.”
On May 5th, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had apologized for the statements made by his Foreign Minister, Lavrov.
Bennett said in a statement after a call with Putin that he “accepted the apology and thanked Putin for clarifying his position.”
Israel has many reasons for being on the fence and cannot take a firm stance on the Russian-Ukraine war. First, it is a special ally of the United States and is committed to strategic coordination with its ally. Secondly, it is in a state of potential war with Iran.
The Jewish state has a domestic reason for additional hesitation, which is the presence of two large communities inside Israel, of Russian and Ukrainian origin, that put great pressure on the government to mediate between the two conflicting states.
It is worth noting that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett conducted some shuttle trips between the two capitals, and invited the two leaderships to meet in the occupied Jerusalem around a dialogue table to end the war.
Israel is concerned about what is happening in Ukraine. At least a quarter of a million Jews in Ukraine are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the so-called “Law of Return.”
Israel has established a semi-permanent channel of dialogue with the Russians, or our “northern neighbours,” as one Israeli official recently described them. Russia controls the skies over Syria as Israel carries out constant air strikes against what it says are transfers of arms and militants linked to Iran, a country it sees as an existential threat.