Israel weighing condemnation as Russia escalates against Ukraine

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz weighed what kind of statement to release that would not undermine military coordination with Russia in Syria.

 Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks to the media following a meeting with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, February 22, 2022. (photo credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks to the media following a meeting with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, February 22, 2022.
(photo credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)

Israel considered condemning Russia’s moves toward invading Ukraine on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz weighed what kind of statement to release that would not undermine military coordination with Russia in Syria.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would ultimately have to approve any statement before it is released.

Earlier this week, Lapid shed light on Israel’s considerations when it comes to speaking out against or joining Western sanctions on Moscow.

Israel has “liberal democratic values,” but is “in a bit of a Baltic situation,” he said.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations mission to Israel, February 20, 2022.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations mission to Israel, February 20, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“We have a kind of border with Russia... the important force inside Syria,” Lapid told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations mission to Israel.

Israel notifies the Russian Army, the major military force in Syria, before it strikes Iranian targets over the northern border.

In addition, Russia and Ukraine have large Jewish communities, Lapid said, adding that he has to be “more careful than any other foreign minister in the world.”

A Ukrainian source said Kyiv, which views Israel as its ally in the Middle East, is disappointed in the silence from Jerusalem, but it understands the matter is sensitive and may take more time.

The Israeli Embassy in Ukraine officially evacuated to Lviv on Tuesday, moving from the capital, Kyiv, hours after Russia declared the separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk to be independent republics.

“The embassy staff has arrived in Lviv,” Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky said. “We will continue to serve Israeli citizens from here, and we continue to call on all Israeli citizens to leave Ukraine as soon as possible.”

Lapid emphasized in a statement that he is prioritizing the safety of Israel’s emissaries and citizens in Ukraine, as well as that of the local Jewish community.

Lapid thanked Brodsky and his staff for smoothly evacuating the embassy in Kyiv, which is farther east than Lviv and closer to the area of conflict.

Israel has been providing consular services in Lviv for citizens seeking to return since last week.

The Foreign Ministry reiterated its call for all Israeli citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.

Lapid also thanked Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova and Hungary for coordinating with Israel in advance of the possibility that Israelis will need to be evacuated by land. Israeli diplomats in those countries visited border crossings with Ukraine in recent days and held meetings with the border authorities to ensure safe passage for Israelis.

Despite the efforts and the government’s entreaties over the past week, about 4,000 out of an estimated 12,000 Israelis had left Ukraine as of Monday.

Bennett repeated his request that cabinet ministers not comment on the situation in Ukraine.