Israel to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine at UNGA - Lapid

The Security Council called for the UNGA meeting after Russia used its veto power on Friday, to block any council action to protect Ukraine.

 Yair Lapid. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yair Lapid.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Israel plans to cosponsor a United States-backed resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in advance of Monday’s special emergency session on the matter.

“Israel has been and will be on the right side of history. Those are our values,” he said, adding that it was also important to stand with the US in this war.

“Our most important ally has been and will be the United States,” Lapid told reporters in Jerusalem.

Since the outbreak of the war on Thursday, Israel has been in the midst of a complex diplomatic triangle in which it has attempted to maintain ties with Russia on the one side and with the US and Ukraine on the other.

The issue, in particular, had been Russia’s presence in Syria, along Israel’s northern border, Lapid said.

 Smoke rising after shelling on the outskirts of the city is pictured from Kyiv, Ukraine February 27, 2022. (credit: Mykhailo Markiv/Reuters) Smoke rising after shelling on the outskirts of the city is pictured from Kyiv, Ukraine February 27, 2022. (credit: Mykhailo Markiv/Reuters)

“Our American partners also understand... Israel effectively has a security border with Russia,” he said. “Russia is the most significant military power in Syria, and our cooperation mechanism with them assists in our determined battle against Iranian entrenchment on our northern border,” he added.

To maintain that balance, Israel ignored a US request to sign onto a resolution condemning Russia that failed to pass the UN Security Council on Friday. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield expressed disappointment to her Israeli counterpart, Gilad Erdan. In addition, Kyiv was surprised at Israel’s choice, with Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk saying: “We always work with Israel on sensitive matters; we believed Israel would sponsor this statement.”

Israel, however, shifted in the direction of the Biden administration on Monday.

Israel will vote in support of the UNGA resolution against Russia and will be part of the international effort to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians, Lapid told reporters.

To underscore the support that Israel has for Ukraine, Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan walked up to his Ukrainian counterpart, Sergiy Kyslytsya, prior to the start of the UNGA’s special emergency session on Monday to shake his hand.

Kyslytsya stood up, and the two men patted each on the shoulder and posed for the cameras. The Ukrainian envoy had been part of a delegation Erdan brought to Israel last year and was helpful in ensuring the UNGA passage of a resolution to combat Holocaust denial in January.

The special session marks only the 11th time in UN history that such a meeting has been called. At least 100 countries, including Israel, signed up to speak. It is expected that the debate could continue through Tuesday. A vote on a resolution is expected to take place only at the end of the debate.

The meeting comes as the Russian Army has surrounded Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv and Moscow has placed its forces on nuclear alert, an act that was heavily criticized at the UNGA.

“We are facing a tragedy for Ukraine, but also a major regional crisis with potentially disastrous implications for us all,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he opened the meeting.

“The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply inconceivable,” he said. “Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons.”

Moscow’s nuclear alert was “madness,” Kyslytsya said, adding that if Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to “kill himself, he doesn’t need to do a nuclear arsenal.” He was referring to the death of Adolph Hitler in 1945, who at the end of World War II killed himself in a bunker, suggesting that Putin do the same.

The Russian invasion was a test for the global community, Kyslytsya said.

“What is happening now in Ukraine has already had security and humanitarian implications for all of you, immediately for Europe and a bit later for the rest,” he said. Global and food security have been impacted, he added.

“If we fail to respond now... we will face oblivion,” Kyslytsya said. “It must not happen. Now is the time to act. [It is] time to help Ukraine, that is paying now the ultimate price of freedom and security for itself and the world.”

“If Ukraine does not survive, international peace will not survive,” he said. “If Ukraine does not survive, the UN will not survive, have no illusions. If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails next.”

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya blamed Ukraine for violating agreements with respect to Russian-speaking provinces in the eastern part of its country, Donbas and Luhansk.

“It seems as if these four million people” do not exist for Ukraine, he said, accusing Kyiv of acts of “genocide” against people in those regions.

There is a need to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, Nebenzya said.

Russia has been “exercising its right to self-defense from a regime that has been striving to gain access to nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that Ukraine is seeking membership in NATO and has “territorial claims” to the Russian Federation.

Nebenzya underscored that Ukraine joining NATO was a “redline” for his country from a military and strategic level that would necessitate a response.

He accused the West of “flooding” Ukraine with weapons and inciting the country’s people to engage in combat and warned against a deluge of fake news that has distorted what is happening on the ground.

The special emergency session was held after the US and Albania invoked the special “united for peace” mechanism created in 1950 to allow the UN to act in cases where its Security Council is deadlocked.

The 15-member body called for the UNGA meeting Sunday after Russia used its veto power on Friday to block any Security Council action to protect Ukraine.

UNSC members cannot use their veto power to block a vote on a UNGA emergency session that has the support of at least nine other members.

The Security Council on Sunday night voted 11-1 in favor of the UNGA emergency session. China, India and the UAE abstained. All of the UN’s 193-member states can participate in the General Assembly, but none of them have veto power over its proceedings.