Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/FLASH90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President Vladimir Putin in Jerusalem, June 25, 2012.

President Vladimir Putin called Benjamin Netanyahu on December 21 to congratulate him on his election victory and the formation of his new government. The two leaders issued a joint statement saying they discussed several issues, chief among them the war in Ukraine. The call took place while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was visiting the US, in fact, it was shortly after he met with President Joe Biden.

Zelensky, too, congratulated Netanyahu – but waited until after his inauguration ceremony Thursday night. The Ukrainian government published his message: “Congratulations on the establishment of the new government. I wish success for Israel’s well-being and security and confirm Ukraine’s readiness for close cooperation to strengthen our ties and face common challenges, to achieve prosperity and victory over evil.”


Now, there’s a loaded greeting card…

Russia, too, issued a congratulatory statement on Netanyahu’s inauguration night, but it avoided issues like victory over evil. Instead, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said: “We are hoping that the efforts of the cabinet that’s been formed by the leader of the Likud party will benefit the Israeli people, and contribute to the development of the traditional partnership relations with Russia, as well as the strengthening of security in the Middle East.”

That’s not bad at all, since Russia controls an entire country just north of Israel’s border where most of those security problems originate.

“On our part, we are open to constructive interaction with Netanyahu’s cabinet for further strengthening and expansion of the multipronged and mutually beneficial Russian-Israeli cooperation and a coordination of efforts in the interest of remedying the situation in the Middle East region and on the international stage on the whole,” the foreign ministry added.

Two days after Netanyahu’s election victory, on November 3, Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevhen Korniychuk told Interfax-Ukraine: “I remind you that in the election campaign Netanyahu said that he would consider revising Israel’s policy on the supply of weapons to Ukraine. Of course, this does not mean anything concrete in political language, but there are certain prerequisites for this position to change. And I want to believe that together we will be able to change it.”

Korniychuk added a more concrete note: “When they form a government, then we will say that we are working with this government and will start moving in the areas that interest us, first of all, of course, military-technical cooperation. And here something is already being done. How actively this will continue with the Netanyahu government, if he manages to form it, we will see when the Netanyahu government is formed.”

The ambassador also noted hopefully: “Let me remind you that at the beginning of 2021, we received 20 million Pfizer vaccines from New York thanks to Netanyahu’s efforts. He secured a telephone conversation between our president and the CEO of Pfizer, and we received the contract within two weeks, in January 2021. That is, there were positive results of our cooperation.”

This explains why Putin has been so eager to bear-hug Bibi, besides their natural affinity for each other. Clearly, the Russian president wants to keep Israel away from the lucrative Ukrainian market for its weapons or even just its defensive Iron Dome systems.

The Ukrainian president is laboring hard to drag Israel in.

On December 1, Zelensky said: “I had one conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We are waiting for Israel’s support. I don’t want them to balance between Ukraine and Russia. This is a bloody war. After 550 Iranian drones were used… He knows all the details and for sure can help with air defense. This is not a weapon that attacks Russia. This is protecting people. If he wants to preserve the historical relations between Israel and Ukrainian society, it seems to me that we must do our best to save people.”

On a personal note, Zelensky should tone down his “historical relations between Israel and Ukrainian society” thing. Those relations yielded 900,000 Ukrainian Jews who were murdered by the Nazis with enthusiastic assistance from the locals. Maybe not mention it so often when he’s asking for help from the descendants of those Jews?

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