Zelensky needs to lay off Israel - opinion

Zelensky said he expects Israel to join the sanctions against Russia. In his words: “Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Israel joining yet.” Ukraine is turning the proverbial screws on Israel.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint news conference with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi (not pictured), as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 26, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint news conference with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi (not pictured), as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 26, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called Israel out and chastised the Jewish state for not doing enough to help Ukrainians fight their war with Russia. Recently, he did it again. Zelensky said that the Israeli government is still not offering his country sufficient help to fight the Russians who invaded his country on February 24.

At the time, he was speaking via Zoom to students and faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The president of Ukraine, a master communicator and performer, first acknowledged that he appreciated the help of the Israeli people. And then he gave a real zetz – a real slap – to the Israeli government.

We thank the Israeli people, but we also ask for the support of your government."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Speaking gently and yet forcefully, Zelensky said: “We will in future have to look into each others’ eyes… On Friday we will mark four months since the Russians invaded Ukraine and Moscow declared war against Kyiv… I think you have all witnessed what a tragedy it is, but nevertheless, I’m sure we will prevail and win.”

Zelensky spoke about how disappointed he is with Israel. He spoke about how he, the Jewish president of Ukraine, and Israel have a shared past. He reminded his rapt audience that major Israeli pioneer heroes came from Ukraine: Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Golda Meir and Shalom Aleichem (who actually settled in the US, not Israel, and wrote in Yiddish not Hebrew).

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Western Wall on January 23, 2020. (credit: GOLDPR) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Western Wall on January 23, 2020. (credit: GOLDPR)

Zelensky called Russia a “terror state.” He said: “They attack and destroy our cities, and they burn everything in their path.”

Describing the devastation in Mariupol, he said that there was virtually nothing left of the city. Russian artillery virtually wiped it out. He said: “Four months ago, half a million people lived in the city. Now, only a few tens of thousands are left.”

And then came the zetz.

“The Ukrainian people are grateful to the Israeli people for waving our national flag on the streets, and we appreciate the gesture very much. We thank the Israeli people, but we also ask for the support of your government.

“Luxembourg, with a population of some 600,000 people, provided us defensive aid equal to 15% of their defense budget. But what about Israel? We understand this is not an easy situation but we would like to see greater support.”

And then another zetz.

Zelensky said he expects Israel to join the sanctions against Russia. In his words: “Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Israel joining yet.” Ukraine is turning the proverbial screws on Israel.

Despite the field hospital, the food, the transport to Israel, the accepting of immigrants and granting them citizenship, the mediation coming from Israel’s highest level to Russia’s highest level to Ukraine’s highest level – Ukraine, i.e. Volodymyr Zelensky wants more. And then even more.

The man has chutzpah.

UKRAINE’S AMBASSADOR to Israel came just short of demanding that Israel give his country the Israel’s prized anti-missile interception battery, the Iron Dome. Putting the Iron Dome in the battlefield, in Ukraine, is as good as guaranteeing that it would fall into Russia’s hands – and from there who knows?

And in March, when Zelensky addressed the Knesset, again via Zoom, he made – albeit powerful, moving and heart-wrenching – a similar set of demands. He also made similar demands and exaggerated claims paralleling the events in Ukraine to the Holocaust. And he explained that Israelis, certainly, should understand the parallel.

Reactions to Zelensky's harsh words

Israelis and Jews world over were insulted – and yet still moved.

Why does Zelensky castigate Israel for not doing enough? They must do more! Might it be because he, personally, is Jewish and expects more from the Jewish state? No, I do not think so.

Is it because tiny little Israel has been the victim of aggression and attacked in onslaught after onslaught by its Arab and Muslim neighbors and should feel empathy for Ukraine? No, I do not think so.

Is it because just like Ukraine Israel is in the right despite the claims of her enemy interlopers? No, I do not think so.

Israel can handle the charges of neglect and of not doing enough.

Critique of Israel is de rigor. It is okay to criticize Israel. It is okay to call Israel on the carpet and to pressure Israel. Israel does not need to justify her actions and list the things she has done to help and assist Ukraine and so many other countries and people in need. And Israel should not throw that back in Zelensky’s face.

Israel needs to act in her own best interests. 

And while there is no doubt that confronting Russian aggression is important, so too is keeping on good terms with Russia. The Russians control Syria, and Iran is outfitting Hezbollah in Syria. And that’s why Israel has been a mediator between Russia and Ukraine. Israel understands both sides in this conflict. Intimately, diplomatically speaking, Israel understands.

Zelensky is charismatic, appealing and extremely teleogenetic. But when it comes to Israel, this newbie political leader would be more successful if he asked politely as opposed to preaching “musar” and delivering morality sermons.

The writer is a columnist and a social and political commentator.