Chabad rabbi Pinchas Vishedski.
(photo credit: TAMARA ZIEVE)
KIEV – Relations between Israel and Ukraine are good and will stay good, a local rabbi in Kiev said Sunday following Israel’s cancellation of a visit by the Ukrainian prime minister, reportedly in light of his country’s vote against Israel at the UN Security Council Friday.
Chabad rabbi Pinchas Vishedski attributed Ukraine’s decision to vote in favor of a resolution condemning Israel’s continuing settlement building, to advisers and US pressure. Vishedski expressed certainty that Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman’s government had reservations about the decision. “I hope relations will go back to normal, because at the base there is a true friendship between Ukraine and Israel and certainly with Prime Minister Groysman,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
He put Ukraine’s vote down to “rules of the game,” which he said forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to respond in turn, by canceling Groysman’s visit to Israel.
Jewish refugees of Ukraine's Donbass region celebrate Hanukka at the Khreschatyk Hotel in Kiev on Dec. 25, 2016
Vishedski is the rabbi of the Donbass Jewish community, much of which has fled the conflict- stricken region. Since September 2014 the rabbi transferred to Kiev, where he worked to support and rebuild the scattered community.
On Sunday, he threw a Hanukka party for the community, in cooperation with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews “I don’t think Ukraine should have voted like that,” said Shaul Melamed, a member of the Donbass Jewish community now living in Kiev.
Recalling Israel’s vote in favor of Ukraine at the UN on the issue of Crimea, Melamed opined that Ukraine should have returned the favor, or at the least abstained. “I don’t know why they did it,” he told the Post, reflecting that in light of Israel’s reaction, it is likely to have an impact on their relations. “For the government of Israel it was obviously a redline, but I hope it won’t impact the relationship between Ukrainian Jews and Israel,” he said.
Jakov Potikhanov of Donetsk agreed that the canceled visit was “not a good sign,” and expressed hope that Israel-Ukraine relations would improve.
However, Jewish Ukrainian MP Evgeni Geller does not believe the vote will have any impact on ties between Israel and Ukraine, nor does he think it will stop the building of settlements.
Noting that currently there is neither economic nor scientific cooperation between Jerusalem and Kiev, he opines that there is not much interest in the relationship from either side. If and when Groysman does visit Israel, however, Geller believes there is potential to change this in a way that will benefit both countries.