Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has for years been a firm advocate of the principle of reciprocity when it comes to Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority. “If they give, they will receive,” he said as far back as 1999. “If they don’t give, they won’t receive.”
This principle is worth bearing in mind in all of Israel’s diplomatic relations, including with war-torn Ukraine.
While Jerusalem has backed Kiev in international forums since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Ukraine continues to support 90% of anti-Israel decisions in the United Nations, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky told Ukrainian news outlet ZN.UA last week.
Discrepancies in UN voting
As an example, he cited a UN vote in January on referring Israel to the International Court of Justice for its “occupation, settlement, and annexation of Palestinian territory.” Ukraine voted against Israel in the draft, and then, after its ambassador to Israel was summoned by the Foreign Ministry, did not participate in the main vote at all.
“This is unusual considering Kyiv often turns to the Israeli authorities with various requests,” Brodsky said. “If Ukraine sees Israel as a friendly nation and makes requests from it, then it needs to support us in the matters that are important to us just as Israel works with Ukraine on matters important to it.”
Israel, for its part, has consistently supported Ukraine at the United Nations, cosponsoring a historic UN resolution against Russia at the start of the war and supporting other measures since, Brodsky said.
Israel's strategic considerations: Security and assistance in Ukraine
On issues that Israel did not support, such as providing arms to Ukraine, he explained that Israel has to take its own security into account.
“This is due to our sensitivity in relations with Russia and the danger that may arise if Israel takes any careless steps that could lead to an aggravation of the situation,” he said, adding that while this is why Israel hasn’t sent weapons to Ukraine, it is in the process of supplying it with an early warning system and has provided humanitarian aid since the start of the war more than 500 days ago.
This aid, Brodsky noted, was given after Israel made the decision early on to support Ukraine in the war.
The interview with Israel’s ambassador came two weeks after Ukraine’s embassy in Tel Aviv lashed out at Israel in a post on Facebook, accusing it of choosing the “path of close cooperation” with Russia, and saying that “the so-called ‘neutrality’ of Israel’s government is considered a clear pro-Russian position.”
The embassy called Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s trip to Kyiv in February “fruitless” and accused Netanyahu of making “entirely fictional and speculative assumptions” in his interview with The Jerusalem Post.
In the interview, Netanyahu had said Israel had concerns that “any systems that we give to Ukraine would be used against us because they could fall into Iranian hands… and by the way, that’s not a theoretical possibility. It actually happened with the Western anti-tank weapons that we now find at our borders. So we have to be very careful here.”
During Cohen’s trip to Ukraine, he received a warm reception from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba after pledging $200 million in loan guarantees for healthcare and civilian infrastructure, as well as assistance in developing a smart early-warning system.
Israel's ongoing support and expectations: Strengthening bilateral relations
A day after the angry Ukrainian embassy Facebook post, Cohen told reporters that Israel, which was one of the first countries to recognize Ukraine, had sent Kiev humanitarian aid of NIS 80 million ($22 m.), with a higher sum earmarked for this year.
“Despite the complexities vis-à-vis Russia, Israel has stood by Ukraine’s side since the outbreak of the war until today and has even voted in international forums in favor of condemning Russia,” Cohen insisted.
Netanyahu is said to be considering an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Kyiv. If he goes – and we hope he does – we trust he will impress upon his hosts that Israel expects them to start supporting the Jewish state in the international arena.
Ukraine should do so not as a condition for Israeli support – which Israel should continue to extend because it is the right thing to do – but because backing Israel is also simply the right thing to do.