Resolving the crisis in Ukraine - Opinion

Relations with Russia and Ukraine are both strategically important for Israel, as thousands of Jews from Russia and Ukraine immigrate to Israel every year.

 A Russian service member drives a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle during drills held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia February 3, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/SERGEY PIVOVAROV)
A Russian service member drives a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle during drills held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia February 3, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SERGEY PIVOVAROV)

The latest escalation between Russia and Ukraine doubtlessly could cause destructive consequences to the entire region and potentially endanger the closest allies of the two countries, including Israel. As leaders of international Jewish organizations, led by the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, we support the Israeli government’s decision to remain neutral on this issue. Relations with Russia and Ukraine are both strategically important for Israel. Thousands of Jews from Russia and Ukraine immigrate to Israel every year, and the Jewish population must be allowed to retain the right to make aliyah at any time.

Some of the largest Jewish communities in the world live in Russia and Ukraine. Israel maintains strong economic, cultural and scientific ties with the two countries. Russia is a prominent and influential player in the Middle East, and the trade volume with Russia in 2021 has already returned to pre-pandemic levels. According to the Foreign Ministry of Israel, a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is being prepared. Last year Israel signed a similar agreement with Ukraine.

Dr. Michael Mirilashvili (Credit: Aharon Gedalia)Dr. Michael Mirilashvili (Credit: Aharon Gedalia)

It’s important to note that Jewish community leaders are patriots of their countries and sometimes differ in their assessment of ongoing political events. However, we succeeded in convincing them that we have to make active decisions for a peaceful settlement of tensions. As citizens of their countries, Jewish leaders can do a great deal to improve mutual understanding and work out a reasonable compromise.

In these challenging days, we are calling for immediate negotiations and hoping that the issue will be resolved through diplomacy. All forces of international organizations and the diplomatic offices of Europe, the United States, Ukraine and Russia must take an active part in resolving the issue in a non-violent way in order to keep the peace.

The leaders of the EAJC are true patriots of their countries. They are also well aware of the scope and wide distribution of the elite in the region. That is why they cannot stand aside in such dangerous and complicated situations.

As a President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, I turned to the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, with an initiative to lead a group of influential Jewish leaders to mediate in the negotiation process. I have received support from him in this endeavor and we are now consulting intensively and looking forward to receiving the consent of the parties concerned. Moreover, we hope to visit the leaders of the states and move towards a compromise as fast as possible. Time is of the essence.

From my point of view, the probability of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is low. This statement has been repeatedly confirmed by President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, due to the numerous journalistic and analytical publications and the aggressive rhetoric of some politicians, we consider it necessary to offer our mediation and strive to defuse tension.

The Western world, Russia and Ukraine are now interacting in an atmosphere of mutual distrust that has developed over the past several months. The facts show us that there have been no significant results in the negotiation process.

On the contrary, we are completely neutral and interested only in peace. We clearly understand that it is necessary to achieve de-escalation, ensuring that leaders can decrease tensions and not lose their authority. We are ready and capable to contribute to a compromise and achieve a better understanding between all sides in the conflict.

Many of us were born in Russia or Ukraine. Our relatives, friends and partners live there. That is why we cannot remain indifferent in this difficult time.  Despite the low probability of war breaking out, the voice of conscience urges us to make all possible decisions to stabilize the situation and maintain peace.

Dr. Michael Mirilashvili is the President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.