Photo Credit: Matty Stern / US Embassy Jerusalem
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides at the Western Wall, on December 4, 2021.

US Ambassador to Jerusalem Tom Nides was trying his best to get Israel deeper in trouble with its neighbor to the north, Vladimir Putin, by tweeting glowing praise giving it credit for its wonderful work against the nasty Russians: “Enormous thanks to Israel for helping rally more members to stand with Ukraine in today’s historic UN vote. Over 141 votes to hold Russia accountable. Diplomacy matters.”


Gee, thanks, Tom.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid decided on Wednesday that Israel would vote in favor of the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of Russia, but he and his senior staff decided to lower Israel’s diplomatic level in the debate leading up to the condemnation. It meant UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan did not deliver a speech at the assembly, his deputy, Noa Foreman did instead.

The official reason was Israel’s hesitation to create a full-blown confrontation with the Russians, but sources involved in the move told Haaretz the reason for the decision was Lapid’s distrust of Erden, who was a political appointment of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. According to the source, Lapid didn’t want to allow Erdan to use the Assembly speech for political purposes, given his ambitions to run for the Likud leadership, a move that could damage relations with Russia or the United States or both.

Incidentally, there’s no doubt the honorable American ambassador was doing a number on the Israelis, since over the weekend, Israel announced it decided to refuse the US request to join the UN Security Council’s proposed condemnation of Russia. Israel agreed to publicly state its support for Ukraine, and Lapid has even officially accused Russia of the attack, but the political echelon in Jerusalem continued to maintain a vague message to the Putin administration.

Lapid said this week that the United States “understands that there are points we must consider” concerning the Israeli response to the war in Ukraine. “We have been and will be on the right side of history, these are our values,” Lapid said and noted that Israel is sending humanitarian equipment to Ukraine.

A senior political source in Jerusalem said this week that the Israeli vote for condemnation would not harm relations with Moscow––most notably the security coordination with the Russian army that allows Israel to attack pro-Iranian targets in Syria. According to the source, Russia has conveyed to Israel that it sees Ukraine and Syria as two different policy arenas. The source added that Israel is working to preserve freedom of action in the skies of Syria “in every way possible.”

We certainly hope so.


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