Israelis Warned to Leave Ukraine, Now!

Amid fears of imminent Russian invasion, Israeli airlines asked to help evacuate citizens; talk of sudden mass Aliyah from Ukraine

By | | Topics: Ukraine, Russia
View of the Motherland Monument in the city of Kiev in Ukraine.
View of the Motherland Monument in the city of Kiev in Ukraine. Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has urged all Israelis to immediately leave Ukraine amid fears of an imminent Russian invasion of the country. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem estimates that there are up to 15,000 Israelis currently in Ukraine.

Spokespersons for both Bennett and the Foreign Ministry said that Israeli airlines were being called upon to send additional flights to Ukraine in the coming days to aid in the evacuations.

Bennett held an emergency meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Shabbat to discuss the crisis. Channel 12 News reported that Bennett instructed the other ministers in his government to refrain from publicly commenting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The situation is very sensitive for Israel and the Jewish people for a number of reasons:

  1. Both Russia and Ukraine are home to large Jewish communities that Israel doesn’t want to see blamed or targeted by angry citizens on either side;
  2. Israel has warm and strategically-important relations with both Russia and Ukraine that it can’t afford to damage;
  3. Israel needs to stay on Moscow’s good side to maintain its ability to operate against Iranian elements in Syria.

For more on that, see: Why Israel finds itself in the middle of the Russia-Ukraine standoff

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai tweeted on Saturday that Israel should prepare itself for a sudden influx of Ukrainian Jews in the event that they face local hostility in relation to a Russian invasion.

“As the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel is here to support Ukrainian Jewry. If Ukraine’s Jewish community is put in danger by the Russian conflict, we must offer immediate immigration, as well as support the communities on the ground,” he wrote.

American media reported that following a tense hour-long phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden and other senior officials in Washington determined that Russia would invade Ukraine by Tuesday, February 16.

A White House spokesman said there would be no efforts to evacuate or rescue stranded American citizens once a conflict had begun for fear that the involvement of US troops would spark a much larger war.

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