Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov said on Thursday that “Moscow is pleased with Israel’s decision not to send weapons to Ukraine,” Abu Ali reported. Viktorov added that “Moscow hopes that Israel will behave intelligently regarding the Ukrainian crisis.”
This is a distinct improvement of Viktorov’s disposition regarding Israel’s stand on his country’s invasion of its next-door neighbor. Last May, the ambassador stormed out of a Knesset session after MK Evgeny Sova (Yisrael Beytenu), who was born in Ukraine, said the Russian invasion was a “slap in the face of our grandparents who fought the Nazis.”
Last October, Viktorov announced that “supplying weapons to the current terrorist regime in Kiev could be considered a very unfavorable act on Israel’s part.”
The warning followed provisional Prime Minister of Israel Yair Lapid’s strong condemnation of renewed Russian bombardment of Ukrainian cities in the wake of Ukraine’s blowing up parts of the Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, which President Vladimir Putin described as a terrorist attack.
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 had met with President Joe Biden.
Zelensky, too, congratulated Netanyahu – but waited until after his inauguration ceremony. 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.”
Maybe, maybe not.
In early December, TASS reported enthusiastically about a Tel Aviv rally that was dedicated to the memory of the children of the rogue republic of Donbas who had been killed by Ukraine’s armed forces. The rally, with “several dozen participants,” was organized by the Israeli Anti-Nazi Front civic association. The Russians couldn’t be happier.
President Isaac Herzog set the record straight even before the November 1 election when he told the Atlantic Council in Washington: Israel is assisting quite substantially in an array of issues, most predominantly humanitarian issues.”
Viktorov’s statement on Thursday may have been his way to reassure the Israeli government that Russia understands it cannot prevent the Americans from arming the Ukrainians with weapons and ammunition they store in Israel (US Drains Emergency Weapons Stockpile in Israel to Arm Ukraine Against Russia).
Finally, there’s no doubt Putin is much happier with PM Netanyahu than with his provisional predecessor, who said last October: “I strongly condemn the Russian attacks on the civilian population in Kiev and other cities across Ukraine. I send our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the Ukrainian people.”