It comes down to whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to give in to US pressure to deliver to embattled Ukraine the anti-missile defense technology that Israel developed with US funding. According to an NBC News report Tuesday night, Netanyahu may be cracking under the pressure (Netanyahu bows to U.S. pressure to distance Israel from Putin).
Tovah Lazaroff, who moonlights as the Deputy Managing Editor of The Jerusalem Post, conceded on the NBC website that “Russia has been Netanyahu’s partner in neighboring Syria, where it is one of President Bashar al-Assad‘s most important military backers. An agreement with Israel has made it possible for the Israeli army to conduct aerial raids against Iranian-linked targets there.”
In other words, should Netanyahu make the foolish mistake of arming Ukraine with the David’s Sling system, Israel would not be able to continue to attack the continuous Iranian and Hezbollah shipments of weapons and military technology north of its border.
On February 1, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova put it bluntly: “We say that all countries that supply weapons [to Ukraine] should understand that we will consider these [weapons] to be legitimate targets for Russia’s armed forces.”
She added: “Any attempts––implemented or even unrealized but announced for the supply of additional, new, or some other weapons––will lead to an escalation of this crisis. And everyone should be aware of this.”
Zakharova responded to a CNN interview with Netanyahu, where he said that he was “looking into” giving Ukraine “other kinds of aid” in addition to humanitarian aid. He then went into a lengthy explanation of why it would be suicidal for Israel to furnish Ukraine with Israel’s advanced defense systems:
“Just miles from here, on our northern border in Syria, Israeli aircraft and Russian aircraft are flying within spitting distance of each other,” he said, adding: “Iran is trying to plant itself in Syria right next to our northern border, the way they did in Lebanon with Hezbollah. I’ve adopted a policy over the last 7-8 years to militarily hit Iran’s military installations. They wanted to build an army here of 100,000 Shiite militia commanded by Iranian generals and we’ve systematically degraded them.”
“Israel needs to have freedom of action in the air… I was very open with Putin about that. We can clash or we can make sure that we coordinate in such a way that our air forces do not clash,” the PM stated clearly.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has been applying pressure on Israel steadily and relentlessly to give him the defense systems, a move that in turn would leave Israel defenseless on its northern border. On October 17, the West’s favorite spoiled child told the Munich Security Conference (over Zoom): “We do not have yet the David’s Sling from Israel, but I believe it is just temporary.”
And a day earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told his visiting Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in Kiev: “Israel knows perfectly well the list of our military and defensive requests which we have provided … and we will be waiting for some decisions to be taken. We are talking about the provision of the Ukrainian skies.”
Netanyahu should be more concerned with the provision of the Israeli skies.
Lazaroff reported on a visit by two Israeli MKs of Ukrainian extraction, both of whom are on the outs with Netanyahu these days: Yuli Edelstein (Likud), who was demoted by the PM from minister to Knesset committee chairman; and Ze’ev Elkin (National Unity) who slammed the door on Netanyahu to join Gideon Sa’ar and later Benny Gantz (Bibi made him Minister of Water). Ignoring these pesky details, Lazaroff presented their pro-Ukrainian message as a sign of a coming shift in Israeli policy about the Putin-Zelensky confrontation.
“Israel can and should do much more than it has done so far,” Brother Yuli and Brother Ze’ev said in a joint statement in Kiev. “We must stop being afraid, and take an active unequivocal position in accordance with the basic moral values, as would be expected from any Western country.”
Message received. Although it should be noted that more than most other Western countries, Israel is very much a Middle-Eastern country, where strategic mistakes such as poking the Russian bear end up with responses reminiscent of the Cocaine Bear, a 500-pound black bear that consumed a large amount of cocaine and embarked on a drug-fueled murderous rampage.