Ukraine crisis: Bennett calls on Israelis to 'show responsibility, come home'

Ten flights to Israel left Ukraine over the weekend, and 32 more are planned for the coming week amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is seen looking out of his office window. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is seen looking out of his office window.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett implored Israelis to leave Ukraine on Sunday, ahead of a possible escalation with Russia.

“Come home. Don’t take an unnecessary risk. Don’t wait for the situation in which you’ll really want to return and it will already be impossible,” Bennett said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Show responsibility for your own lives, leave Ukraine as quickly as possible and come home.” 

Rising concern for Israeli citizens in Ukraine

The Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning and called on Israelis to return from Ukraine immediately on Saturday night. There are an estimated 10,000-15,000 Israelis currently in Ukraine and about 200,000 Ukrainians qualify for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return

Ten flights to Israel left Ukraine over the weekend, and 32 more are planned for the coming week.

Bennett admitted that it remains unclear how the tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border will unfold.

 People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate Ukrainians' patriotic spirit amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 12, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO) People take part in the Unity March, which is a procession to demonstrate Ukrainians' patriotic spirit amid growing tensions with Russia, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 12, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)

“Like the rest of the world, we hope that the tensions will end without an escalation,” he said, “but it is our primary responsibility to be concerned about our citizens, Israeli citizens.”

The only country to reinforce embassy staff 

Bennett and other relevant ministers and heads of government agencies plan to hold a meeting on Sunday evening about the situation in Ukraine, following discussions over the weekend, which resulted in ordering the IDF and Foreign Ministry to prepare for evacuations if necessary.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid held a situation assessment meeting in the Foreign Ministry on Sunday morning. 

“We are reinforcing [staff at] the embassy in Kyiv in order to give a better response,” to those trying to leave for Israel, Lapid said. “We are the only country that is doing so…The Foreign Ministry will hold two situation assessments each day, morning and evening, and will continue to work in an emergency format.”

The Foreign Ministry sent the families of diplomats stationed in Ukraine back to Israel; their flights were set to arrive on Sunday afternoon.