Salem Alketbi asks the wrong question (“Why was the West caught off guard?” March 4). The real question is whether things would have turned out any differently if Putin’s intentions had been recognized much earlier. Almost certainly the US would not have changed course.
While some have suggested that Putin shows signs of mental decline, he may be acting entirely rationally. Previous Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria, initially condemned by the world, resulted in no lasting retribution. Why should he expect a different outcome this time?
The disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal gave convincing evidence of American decline that had been unthinkable under the prior administration. Putin reasonably concluded that he could act with impunity, fearing no serious repercussions.
It is no coincidence that two Russian encroachments on its sovereign neighbor occurred during the Obama and Biden presidencies, with no similar breach during the Trump years. Biden continues the weak indifference displayed by Obama. Red lines go unenforced; threatened crippling sanctions never materialize.
Biden waited for Putin to act before taking any meaningful countermeasures, providing the bare minimum of weapons to Ukraine before the invasion. (Imagine if Ukraine had received even a small portion of the weapons Biden left for the Taliban during his ignominious retreat from Kabul!) He delayed imposing sanctions when they might have had a deterrent effect. He dispatched Vice President Harris, possessing no understanding of foreign affairs, to develop a unified course of action with western allies. Not surprisingly, her mission was an embarrassment.
More importantly, Biden has expressly stated that he has no intention of interfering with Russia’s oil and gas sales which finance the war effort. Even as Biden has reversed the US energy independence achieved under Trump, the US purchases 600,000 barrels of Russian oil every day. The best response to Putin’s barbarism would be to unleash America’s vast oil and gas resources, thereby reducing Russia’s income while loosening its stranglehold on European energy needs. Beholden to the far left wing of the Democratic Party, Biden shows no inclination to take that eminently reasonable step.
Putin took the measure of the man; Biden was found wanting. In light of Biden’s hesitancy to do anything consequential to stop the Russian onslaught, the timing of his recognition of Putin’s intentions is immaterial.
EFRAIM COHENZichron Ya’acov
Lessons of the past
There is much being written about Jewish identification with Ukraine, notably The Jerusalem Post headline declaring the Ukrainian president’s disappointment with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for not providing more support (“Zelensky disappointed at PM’s response to cry for help,” March 4), i.e. that he “did not feel that the Israeli prime minister is wrapped in our flag.”
As Herb Keinon astutely describes in another article in the same edition, (“The baggage Jews carry when looking at current events”), it is not the first time that Jews have been blamed for everything going wrong in the world.
In the case of Ukraine, a century ago Jews were caught in the middle of the war between Ukraine and Poland for national sovereignty (1919-1921) with both sides killing Jews as being perceived as favoring the other.
In addition, it is ironic that while Jews are rightfully called upon to condemn the shelling of the Babyn Yar memorial, it is forgotten that the 33,771 Jews who were murdered there on Yom Kippur of 1941 were killed mostly by Ukrainian collaborators of the Nazis. As a matter of fact, the Ukrainians were among the most brutal of Hitler’s executioners.
As always, it is important to study the lessons of the past in confronting the challenges of the present.
MARION REISS Beit Shemesh
There is an element of chutzpah in Ukraine President Zelensky’s public complaint that the assistance being received from Israel is insufficient, don’t you think? And I’m surprised that the Post ran this charge as the lead story; surely there was more pressing news of the war that could have better filled that space. It’s not like your paper to favor controversy over substance.
Zelensky’s allegation, of course, is utter nonsense. In addition to making every effort to ensure the safety of the Ukrainian Jewish community, Israel is generously providing humanitarian assistance to the overall Ukrainian public as well. Pound for pound, it would not be at all unreasonable to conclude that Israel is doing more than its fair share in helping Ukraine get through what very well may be the awakening of the Russian Bear from its thirty-plus year period of hibernation. And while Zelensky and his immediate neighbors are understandably troubled by this unprovoked aggression, expecting Israel to provide military assistance is going, for now anyway, too far.
Did Bennett’s weekend tete-a-tete with Putin save the day? Probably not, but it will not go unnoticed. That Israel, a small nation that the world periodically maligns with, for example, libelous accusations of apartheid, has been put into a pivotal diplomatic position with Russia is no small achievement. But it is, however, a tricky one. The tightrope Israel is now walking on between Ukraine and Russia grows thinner each day; it’s only a matter of time before Israel will have to take a forceful position for one side or the other. Bennett can argue that, yes, Israel signed off on United Nations condemnation of the Russian aggression, but will insist that the aid being provided is in no way an indication that it has become a Ukrainian ally. Such assistance, he will no doubt add, would be provided to Russia as well, if there was such a need.
I snickered at the good cop/bad cop reference you made in your opinion piece on the need for Israel to take a clear stance on Ukraine. That same thought came to me as well. Trouble is, the respective roles are not as clear-cut as you make them to be. Depending on perspective and point of view, Bennett and Lapid can easily be pegged as either. Which is not a bad strategy, when you think about it.
BARRY NEWMANGinot Shomron
A newspaper should inform (“Zelensky disappointed at PM’s response to cry for help”), provide perspective (“The baggage Jews carry when looking at current events”), and cajole (“Standing for something that is not just an interest,” also March 4) its readership.
Having done that, I’d like to point out, as senior contributing editor Mr. Keinon often does, that countries often act in their own self-interest. True, while Russia might be annoyed at our government for supporting the Ukrainians, they, as noted by the editor-in-chief Mr. Katz, also have an interest in preventing Iran from making too large a footprint in Syria.
Otherwise, as Mr. Katz points out, referring to what is going on as a “situation” may be in our short-term interest, but it is far from an ideal to which we can ever aspire. Moreover, it is no different than when countries speak about our own “cycle of violence” or “both sides.”
Hence, I suggest that it is in our interest to speak clearly about what has transpired (an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign and peaceful country), while reminding the world that moral clarity should be equally applied.
Working on Shabbat
Over Shabbat, my wife and I were discussing how Jewish law allowed traveling on Shabbat, if it was critical to a life-or-death situation. Sure enough, on the front page of Sunday’s Post was an item precisely on that subject (“The rabbi who worked through Shabbat,” March 6).
More importantly, for the many readers not familiar with that exception, you performed a true public service by placing that article so prominently on page one. You are to be congratulated.
MICHAEL D. HIRSCHTzur Yitzhak
Writing on the wall
The headline “Israel’s failed US policy” (March 3) based on the article by Michael Makovsky is misleading at best, and also sends the wrong message to Washington. Israel does not have a failed US policy. The headline should read “The failure of US foreign policy.”
The American withdrawal from Afghanistan was nothing short of an abandonment of everything that America used to stand for. President Biden has confirmed that America will not use military force against Russia. It is clear that America has lost its resolve. Biden cannot even defend the southern border of the United States, let alone fight a foreign war. The current American foreign policy is appeasement. The writing is on the wall. America is about to sign an agreement with Iran that will lift sanctions and empower Iran to advance its nuclear ambitions, and to spread mayhem and terrorism across the Middle East. The only country that is determined to take action to prevent such a scenario is Israel.
Instead of backing Israel, the present US administration has warned Israel not to attack Iran. It has refused to fast forward Israel’s request for two Pegasus KC-46 aerial refueling tankers made by Boeing. It has refused to supply Israel with bunker buster bombs capable of penetrating the Iranian underground facilities. It is holding up funding for the replenishment of Iron Dome missiles that have proven effective in intercepting rockets aimed at Israel.
Despite overwhelming approval in the House of Representatives and Senate for this Iron Dome funding, it has been held up by one senator. This problem could easily be resolved in a creative manner by the administration. Instead, the administration is using this to send a message to Israel. The message is clear. Funding for the replenishment of defensive Iron Dome missiles will be held up in order to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran. In effect Iran is now receiving American protection. Clearly something is not right. The bottom line is that American foreign policy is the problem. The world desperately needs a return of American resolve and leadership.
NEVILLE BERMAN Ra’anana
We all know what happened
Regarding “Ukraine envoy slams Israel for turning back refugees” (March 2), is Israel refusing to take in refugees because accepting them will incur the wrath of the rabbis, as they are not Jewish, or is it because they fear the fury of Putin?
The SS Struma and SS St. Louis carried Jewish refugees supposedly to safety. The Struma was sunk by the Russians, and most of its 800 passengers and crew died. The people on the St. Louis were refused entry to Cuba, the US and Canada, and returned to Germany where we all know what happened.
So what is the Israeli government’s excuse? I hope those who are responsible for the decision not to accept refugees understand that they are reacting the way the Cuban, American and Canadian governments did 78 and 92 years ago.