Netanyahu deputy urges Israel to support Ukraine following criticism

Netanyahu deputy urges Israel to support Ukraine following criticism
Yuli Edelstein, a senior Israeli lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party, has urged the government to support Ukraine's efforts against Russia's invasion.
3 min read
21 February, 2023
Edelstein is a senior lawmaker in Israel [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

A senior lawmaker from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party called on Tuesday for the country to stop "fence-sitting" on Ukraine and provide Kyiv with military defences against Russia, which he accused of "terrorism".

The remarks by Yuli Edelstein, head of the Israeli parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, were welcomed by Kyiv but met no immediate response from Netanyahu.

While Israel has condemned the Russian invasion and provided Ukraine with humanitarian relief and protective gear, it has stopped short of widening the assistance to include defence technologies like missile interceptors. 

It has also been measured in its rhetoric on Russia, mindful of the need to coordinate Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria with Moscow's garrison in the Arab state. This stance has led to criticism from Israel's western allies.

"We must no longer sit on the fence," Edelstein tweeted after he and an Israeli opposition lawmaker, Zeev Elkin, met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv.

In a joint statement, Edelstein and Elkin called on the Netanyahu government to "significantly increase" support for Ukraine, deeming the humanitarian relief insufficient.

"We must assist Ukraine in all realms where Israeli technology - including military - is capable of helping protect the civilian population, its liberty and its independence," they said.

Such technology has also been used against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza, including the bombing of apartment blocks and other civilian infrastructure.

Edelstein and Elkin cited assistance from Israel's arch-enemy Iran for what they described as "the Russian military's terrorism against the civilian population of Ukrainian cities".

Netanyahu's office and the Russian embassy in Israel did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Russia says it is fighting for its own security against an aggressively expanding NATO alliance.

Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visited Kyiv to pledge continued assistance, including the improvement of Ukraine's air defence early warning system. That idea was introduced last year but Kyiv said it had made little progress.

A Ukrainian official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said he was "cautiously encouraged" by Edelstein and Elkin, describing their statement as "the first that fully aligned with our vision or the reality of our two countries".

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Both lawmakers are Ukrainian-born Jewish immigrants to Israel. But the Ukrainian official played down any significance, saying that from his conversations with them he believed "they both want Israel to be on the right side of history".

The call for Israel to support Ukraine comes as the Israeli government has ramped up its oppression against the Palestinians, and has already killed at least 50 Palestinians in near-nightly raids in the West Bank.

Israeli forces have occupied Palestinian land for decades, oppressing the indigenous population by restricting their basic rights and freedoms. They continue to build settlements which are illegal under international law. 

(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)