If there is a red line in Israel, that’s the holocaust. And the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, went far beyond it last Sunday in an interview on Italian television. Asked about Russia’s alleged goal of ‘denazifying’ Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is of Jewish descent, Lavrov replied: “Perhaps I am wrong, but Adolf Hitler also had Jewish blood. It really doesn’t mean anything. We have heard from the wise Jewish people that the most enthusiastic anti-Semites are Jews.” Hit and sunk.

The reactions in Israel were immediate. The Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, branded the position of his Russian counterpart as “unforgivable, outrageous and terrible historical error”. “We want to maintain good relations, but a red line has been crossed. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse them of anti-Semitism themselves,” added Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor and one of the few voices critical of Russia within the Israeli government since the start of the conflict. Monday, Lapid called the Russian ambassador for consultationswith whom he had a “tough conversation” and to whom he demanded an apology from Moscow that has never arrived.

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PJ Armengou. Jerusalem

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also condemned Lavrov’s remarks in a message on Twitter: “His words are false and his intentions wrong”. “No war of our time is like the Holocaust or can be compared to the Holocaust. The use of the Jewish people’s Holocaust as a political tool must cease immediately,” he stated. Bennett has always advocated a neutral stance in the war between Russia and Ukraine and even has been postulated (unsuccessfully) as a possible mediator between Putin and Zelensky. However, he has already begun to receive criticism within his government and in Israel as a whole for his ambiguous position on the invasion.

At the same time, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, published a statement condemning Lavrov’s intervention for “absurd, delusional, dangerous and deserving of condemnation”, and claimed that the Russian diplomat was “turning victims into criminals on the basis of promoting a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent.” “Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President Zelensky in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of history and an affront to the victims of Nazism,” added the institution, which just these days commemorates Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Photo: One of the volunteers who manages the huge aid in Kharkov (KAP)
The ‘Amazon’ of the Ukrainian resistance that delivers food and medicine behind enemy lines

Enrique Andres Pretel. Kharkiv (Ukraine)

After the controversy, Sergei Lavrov finished end the battered relationship with Israel reaffirming his comments and accusing the country of directly supporting “the neo-Nazi regime” of Zelensky. In a Foreign Ministry statement last Tuesday, Russia accused Yair Lapid of making “antihistorical statements” and delved into the involvement of Jews in the Holocaust, citing “examples of cooperation between Jews and Nazis” and highlighting the existence of the Judenrat. , the Jewish governing councils of the ghettos, “some of which are remembered for absolutely monstrous deeds.” “Some Jews were forced to participate in crimes,” but Zelensky “does this quite consciously and voluntarily”he added.

Possible change of posture

Although the Israeli Executive has not officially announced a change of position In the face of the war between Russia and Ukraine, various media and experts, and even government officials, have pointed out that Israel would be turning towards a clearer position in favor of kyiv, trying to avoid a direct confrontation with Putin or an obvious participation in the war. According to a report in the daily ‘Haaretz’, Israeli political and military officials would be increasingly “inclined to strengthen military and civilian assistance to Ukraine”, in the face of continuing news of Russian atrocities and Lavrov’s anti-Semitic comments. According to these sources, cited on condition of anonymity, the extension of the aid will be discussed in the coming days.

Until now, Israeli support to kyiv has been limited to sending humanitarian aid and defensive material “for rescue services”, such as helmets and bulletproof vests; But Bennett has consistently refused to donate weapons to the Ukrainian military or export the prized Iron Dome, the missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy hundreds of short-range rockets and projectiles in the air. The Israeli premise was, in Bennett’s words, to maintain a “cautious position in accordance with the strategic interests of national security.” Namely, neutrality above all. After all, Russia maintains troops in neighboring Syria and turns a deaf ear to Israeli attacks in the area against pro-Iranian militias.

Photo: Lavrov chats with Putin at an international meeting on Libya in 2020. (Getty/Sean Gallup)
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According to ‘Haaretz’, there is currently a certain consensus in the Israeli military environment that “air defense systems would not be provided, advanced weapons or systems to attack the Ukrainian Army”, but yes “defensive systems that protect troops on the ground, personal combat equipment and alert systems”. “Between helmets for soldiers and Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, there are many items that can be shipped,” the same sources told the Israeli newspaper. Thus, according to the article, Israel would intend to take “a more substantial step” in favor of Ukrainethough its support will be “more declarative in nature and will not include substantial amounts of supplies, in part because the United States and European countries are already supplying Ukraine beyond Israel’s capabilities.”

What, then, could Israel offer? The Jewish state could help Zelensky in the field of cyber warfare, espionage and military intelligence, according to analyst Zev Chafets, founder of the Jerusalem Post newspaper and a former adviser to Prime Minister Menachem Begin. “Israel is one of the five leading cyber powers in the world (The United States, Russia, China and Great Britain are the others), and it has very advanced offensive and defensive military capabilities,” Chafets explained in an article in Bloomberg on Tuesday. Also, the journalist added, Israel could train Ukrainian troops outside the country in their native language, as it has “a large group of Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking combat soldiers and reservists.”

diplomatic signs

Beyond what the analysts or the anonymous sources of ‘Haaretz’ indicate, Israel has already shown a timid approach to the Ukrainian side in the diplomatic field. An example of this is his participation in a meeting organized by the United States on April 26 at the Ramstein military base in Germany, in which more than 40 allied countries discussed increasing arms shipment to Ukraine. The country was represented by the head of the political-military office of the Ministry of Defense, General Dror Shalom, and not by the minister of the area, Benny Gantz, who declined the invitation due to the proximity of Yom HaShoah. However, before the meeting, his office sent out a statement indicating that “The defense minister wanted to emphasize that Israel is on the side of the citizens of Ukraine” and in which “the need to continue helping the country and act to end the war” was highlighted.

Photo: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.  (EFE/Alexander Zemlianichenko) Opinion

On the other hand, Israel does not oppose the use of Israeli-made weapons by Ukraine, as long as they are donated by a third country. This was stated on Monday by the Estonian Foreign Minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, during a visit to Jerusalem: “I am not aware that there are obstacles at the moment.” “Until now, we have obtained permission from all the countries of origin for what we wanted to donate,” added the minister, whose country is Israel’s weapons client and has sent 220 million euros in military aid to kyiv, although they were not among them. known Israeli weapons. Liimets reiterated during her visit her country’s desire to continue sending weapons to the Ukrainians: “I believe that all countries that have defensive missiles should support Ukraine and donate or sell weapons. I think it is very important because Ukraine is fighting for democratic values.”

“Wait and see”

However, the experts they doubt that there will be a significant change of direction in Israeli foreign policy in the coming weeks. In a conversation with El Confidencial, Ksenia Svetlova, director of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies (Mitivim), believes that, “despite Lavrov’s despicable comments, even blaming Israel for supporting neo-Nazis, there will not be a radical change in the short term. term”. “I don’t think arms will be sold or sanctions will be imposed on Russia or Russian oligarchs. Israel has interests in Syria, and Russia has bases there and even controls part of the Lebanese airspace,” adds Svetlova, who was a member of Parliament between 2015 and 2019, “what is clear is that the relationship is going to deteriorate a lot, although it was already quite tense.”

For his part, the analyst from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Zvi Magem considers that your country’s position will be one of “wait and see” and considers Israel’s intervention in Ukraine to be little necessary. “We do not need the conflict, it is far from our borders,” adds the expert, who was ambassador to both Russia and Ukraine in the 1990s. On the contrary, Svetlova assures that she “personally would prefer greater support for Ukraine” and recalls that “the United States is Israel’s ally and its only true partner” and that Washington is betting on collaborating with kyiv. “This is a historic moment and Israel should be in the right place in history”, he concludes.

If there is a red line in Israel, that’s the holocaust. And the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, went far beyond it last Sunday in an interview on Italian television. Asked about Russia’s alleged goal of ‘denazifying’ Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is of Jewish descent, Lavrov replied: “Maybe I’m wrong, but Adolf Hitler also had Jewish blood. It really doesn’t mean anything. We have heard from the wise Jewish people that the most enthusiastic anti-Semites are Jews.” Hit and sunk.


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