Ukraine to Israel: ‘Stop Spreading Russian Propaganda, This is War!’

Why Israel finds itself in the middle of the Russia-Ukraine standoff

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Ukraine, Russia
Ukraine insists that it is already at war with Russia, contrary to the view of Israel's Foreign Ministry. Photo: EPA-EFE/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Israel and Ukraine last week had a severe public relations dispute as the Jewish state finds itself smack in the middle of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the point that the United States is asking Jerusalem to mediate between the two sides.

Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday angered Ukraine when he told American media outlet Axios that he did not believe Russia would invade its neighbor, nor would the current tensions lead to a major armed conflict in the region.

“At the moment, the [Israeli] assessment is that we don’t see a violent confrontation soon. I also don’t think a world war is about to start there,” said Lapid.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, fired back with a furious response posted to Facebook:

“I would like to remind Mr. Lapid that it is not a conflict — it is a WAR, that Russia aggressively and cynically conducts against Ukraine. …Unfortunately, Mr. Lapid reiterates rhetoric of Russian propaganda…”

The post has since been removed and Korniychuk was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to be scolded by Israeli officials for his public outburst.

Israeli media pointed out that the Jewish state isn’t blind to what’s happening. But Lapid and his government are tiptoeing for a variety of reasons that make the Russia-Ukraine conflict an extremely sensitive subject for Israel:

  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.

“We have a duty to act with caution about the Russia-Ukraine crisis that no other country has,” Lapid stressed in his Axios interview.

And it should be noted that because Israel remains on good terms with both Russia and Ukraine, at least for now, the United States has asked Jerusalem to play something of a mediating role.

According to Axios, twice already has US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken personally asked Lapid to pass on messages to Moscow urging de-escalation. Apparently, the Biden Administration believes Russia is more likely to listen to Israel than to Western powers.

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