Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz said during Thursday night’s situation assessment held by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Russia sent messages to Israel that it “contains” the Israeli condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine, a source at the meeting told Barak Ravid of Walla (רוסיה העבירה מסר לישראל: מכילים את הגינוי לפלישה לאוקראינה).
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday morning condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, declaring during a press briefing: “The Russian attack on Ukraine is a serious violation of the international order. Israel condemns the attack, and is ready and prepared to provide humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Ukraine. Israel is a country that has experienced wars, and war is not the way to resolve conflicts.”
The source cited Ushpiz as saying the Russian message had come both through the Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Alex Ben-Zvi, and the Russian ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov. “Ushpiz noted that moderate messages of containment came from the Russians and that the Russians think there were countries that condemned them much more harshly than Israel,” the source said.
Someone in the Russian foreign ministry wasn’t as broadminded (Russia Hits Back: ‘Golan Doesn’t Belong to Israel’): in a long statement to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Russia’s delegation to the world body expressed “concern” about “Tel Aviv’s” plans to establish new communities in the north, which the Russians called the “occupied Golan Heights.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for his part, spoke with Lapid on Thursday and expressed his satisfaction with his statement of condemnation he issued Thursday against the Russian invasion.
According to Ha’aretz, on Wednesday, Naftali Bennett summoned the foreign, defense, and finance ministers to discuss the wording of the government’s response to the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. The working concept was not to upset the Russians, “our neighbors to the north,” as Yair Lapid put it.
The ministers and the PM agreed to express support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, without mentioning the country that endangers these values.
During the meeting, Bennett had an idea: he asked to see the language of Israel’s announcement in 2014, following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula to Russia. Ushpiz went out and returned with the paper in his hands for the group to look at. According to a source speaking to Ha’aretz, the text was “very similar” to what the forum eventually put out: support the integrity of Ukraine, don’t mention who’s doing the disintegrating.
Of course, on Thursday morning the need arose to mention the aggressor. Every normal country in the West, most notably the United States, expected Israel to explicitly condemn Russia.
Foreign Minister Lapid is more exposed than Bennett to world diplomacy, wrote pundit Yossi Verter. “He is in constant contact with his counterparts around the world. They made it clear to him that condemnation was the order of the day.”
Ushpiz told Kan 11 News Thursday night: “It’s estimated that thousands of Israelis remain (in Ukraine), between 5,000 and 8,000 people. The only reason we stay there is to provide a service to Israeli citizens. It’s life-threatening but I think it’s our duty to evacuate the citizens. That’s the task we have been given.”
He added: “Israel has been making clear statements for the past 24 hours. Bennett and Lapid are constantly working on the subject. Every word in the declared position of Israel was confirmed by them. It’s important that we speak with one voice. I don’t think we’re sitting on the fence.”
In Thursday night’s meeting with the Prime Minister, the impact of the war in Ukraine on Israel’s supply of food and energy was raised. According to the assessment of the situation, Israel currently has a sufficient supply of wheat and grain in the national emergency warehouses and in the warehouses of private parties to last many weeks, so a shortage of such goods is not expected in the near future. However, it is estimated that should the war continue, there would be a shortage that would lead to price increases.