Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the early stages of planning a trip to Ukraine, Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Kornichuk said on Wednesday.
Kornichuk discussed the matter with the Prime Minister’s Office a day earlier and found that they were willing to consider a visit to Kyiv.
Netanyahu is “reconsidering issues related to Russia” following the attempted coup over the weekend, he said.
The trip is in a very preliminary stage of planning and no date has been set, the ambassador said.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that no decision has been made.
“I told them that the fastest way for Netanyahu to get to the White House is through Kyiv,” Kornichuk said. “The invitation is on the table and has been passed on a couple of times and I hope it will be accepted and we will see Mr. Netanyahu in Kyiv.”
The ambassador’s remark is a reversal of the usual situation in recent decades, in which countries tried to get closer to Washington by strengthening their relationships with Jerusalem. Netanyahu has yet to be invited to the White House, and US President Joe Biden has indicated that the reason is the Israeli government’s planned judicial reform.
Best Radio, an Israeli Russian-language station, reported on Wednesday that Netanyahu is considering a stop in Chișinău to meet the president of Moldova en route to Kyiv.
The Foreign Ministry publicly recommended for the first time that Netanyahu meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The head of the Foreign Ministry’s Eurasia Division Yuval Fuchs made the remark at a meeting of the Foreign Policy Subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
The subcommittee convened to discuss Israel's stance on the Ukraine-Russia war after Kornichuk, sharply criticized Israel's inaction in providing military aid to Ukraine.
Subcommittee chairman MK Gideon Sa'ar (National Camp) expressed the need for Israel to take a more visible, active role in aiding Ukraine.
"The issue of the war in Ukraine remains the number one concern for the world, the international community and international public opinion. In the eyes of the Western world, Israel remains on the sidelines of this conflict. There is a need for a renewed assessment of the Israeli policy towards the war in Ukraine," Sa'ar said.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu should travel to Kyiv - it could reduce this rift," he stated, calling for Israel to implement any agreements with Ukraine that have been delayed.
Sa’ar went on to warn against the Russian-Iranian partnership as a threat to Israel.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuli Edelstein (Likud) concurred, saying that “the nonstop developments in the war between Russia and Ukraine have ramifications for the whole world, including us.
“Ukraine has become Iran’s playing field,” he added. “Iranian weapons flood the region, Iranian technology and Russian cooperation are a clear danger to the security of the State of Israel.
Edelstein said that “the whole world is focused on this war and Israel is still deliberating and dragging its feet. It is clear to everyone what is the right and moral thing to do, and every day that we sit on the fence, we are isolating ourselves and giving the Iranians more time to get stronger. This must change immediately.”
MK Ze'ev Elkin (National Camp), chairman of the Israel-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Association, said that while Israel has been concerned about incurring consequences from Russia if it takes a firm stance favoring Ukraine, there may likewise be consequences for not doing so. He lamented that Israel is falling behind the Western world in this regard.
"The West continues to raise their level of assistance while we remain stuck in the same mind frame of the first day of the war. This is a grave mistake. Israel must urgently wake up and change its policy towards the Russia-Ukraine war," Elkin said.
Elkin, who was born in Kharkiv, has a brother and two nieces who live in the city, as well as other relatives in Ukraine. Edelstein was also born in Ukraine.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post last week, Netanyahu said that the deconfliction mechanism between Jerusalem and Moscow is critical in allowing Israel to strike Iranian targets, as long as the Russian military has a presence in Syria.
"Our pilots are flying right next to Russian pilots over the skies of Syria," Netanyahu said. "And I think it’s important that we maintain our freedom of action against Iran’s attempts to place itself militarily on our northern border."
Days later, the Ukrainian Embassy lambasted Israel for a "near absence of... humanitarian assistance to Ukraine” in the first half of this year and that the "relevant statements made by the Israeli prime minister have always aimed at justifying Israel’s complete inaction in providing Ukraine with defensive assistance [since the start of the war.]"
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.