Israel's PM tells ministers to 'keep low profile' on Ukraine, as Bennett refuses to condemn Russia invasion

Israel's PM tells ministers to 'keep low profile' on Ukraine, as Bennett refuses to condemn Russia invasion
Israel is refusing to back world outrage over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
2 min read
28 February, 2022
The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett considers it is in Israel's interest to remain neutral in the war between Ukraine and Russia. [Abir SULTAN/POOL/AFP vis Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has urged ministers to "keep a low profile" after refusing to condemn Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Bennett sought to maintain "Israel's neutrality", despite global outrage over Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

Like his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett has close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Israel's western allies have all condemned the Russian assault on Ukraine.

While Israel has commented on Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Bennett has not.

"Israel's interest is to be quiet," Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a close ally of Bennett, told other cabinet members during a security meeting on Sunday night.

These instructions came two days after Bennett was asked by the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to mediate talks between Ukraine and Russia in Jerusalem, The New York Times reported on Friday.

"We do believe that Israel is the only democratic state in the world that has great relations with both Ukraine and Russia," the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, told the daily.

Bennett's office confirmed that a phone call took place between the Israeli and Ukrainian leaders, but did not comment further. 

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Israel has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, a balance which it has tried to maintain since Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday sparking global outrage.

On the one hand, Israel relies on Russia's tacit agreement to carry out airstrikes in Syria against Iran-backed groups, including Hezbollah.

Yet after growing pressure on Israel to condemn the invasion, it has made some public statements supporting Ukraine, a country that historically hosted a large Jewish minority.

On Sunday, Bennett pledged to send 100 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, the first batch of which arrived on Monday morning.

Yet its so-called support for Ukraine has been far less than that provided by the US and European countries with neutral Sweden even providing arms to Kyiv.

Israel also initially refused to co-sponsor a US condemnation of Russia in the UN signed by 81 countries, according to local media.