Israeli government officials have asked their Ukrainian counterparts to arrange a phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Volodymyr Zelensky.
It’s not yet clear, however, when – or even if – the call will take place. Netanyahu and Zelensky have not spoken to each other for at least eight months.
The move follows threats by Ukraine not to allow Israeli worshipers to enter the country for the annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to the Tomb of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, located in Uman.
This year’s threats came in response to restrictions on the entry of Ukrainian citizens as tourists to Israel. Those restrictions are implemented (and in some cases, the “tourists” deported back to their country) in cases where the Israeli government believes those individuals plan to remain illegally and seek employment.
Zelensky said last month that the “rights of Ukrainian citizens must be guaranteed” – a statement Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk said was aimed at Israel.
“We will suspend our bilateral visa waiver deals according to Article 7 of the intergovernmental agreement . . . It is unthinkable that we would have to go out of our way to host tens of thousands of Israelis in Uman with a high security risk and a huge logistical effort, while the Israeli government abuses our citizens who come to Israel within the framework of a treaty between the two countries,” Korniychuk said.
In response to the ambassador’s threats, Interior and Health Minister Moshe Arbel said in a statement last month that Israel’s immigration policy “welcomes tourists from many countries in the world, including Ukraine. In instances where there is a suspicion they are using their tourist visa unlawfully to work or settle down, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority operates according to its legal authority.”
Last year Korniychuk also threatened to bar Israelis from making their pilgrimage to Uman, using the war with Russia as an excuse.
Israel has sent hundreds of thousands of tons of medical and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and welcomed thousands of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war to the Jewish State.