Vladimir Zelensky's speech to the Knesset deputies shocked Israel. Some feel offended, while others argue that one cannot demand political correctness from the leader of a country whose citizens are killed every day by bombs. Someone agrees with Zelensky: Israel is not doing enough to help Ukraine. However, we must understand that the reproaches thrown at us by the president are generated not only by his personal emotions. This is how Ukraine, and the entire civilized world, assesses our place in current events.
Israelis were hurt not only by the comparison of Russian aggression with the Holocaust and the reference to the role of Ukrainians (very ambiguous) in the fate of Jews during the Second World War. Zelensky's call to Israel to make a choice caused bewilderment. Our faith and our history, it would seem, leave no doubt on whose side we are in the struggle between good and evil. But today the political and moral position of the Jewish state raises many questions and attacks, and we ourselves give a reason for this.
Our leadership from the very beginning underestimated the gravity of the situation. No one imagined that the war in Ukraine would become the central event in international politics. So far, Israel has been able to remain neutral in foreign conflicts only because these conflicts have not shaken the world order in the way that they are now. In addition, we are used to the fact that our interests are obvious to all allies of the Jewish state. Where were the advisers and experts, why didn’t they explain to the politicians (since they themselves hadn’t thought of it before) that now everything is completely different and much more effort needs to be made just to stay on the sidelines? That the first rule in this – to emphasize secret diplomacy and generally draw less attention to yourself?
Instead, our government has decided to triumphantly shine on the international stage and play the role of mediator in the peace process, since Israel has maintained trusting relations with both sides of the conflict. Bennett's rush to Moscow did revive a short-lived hope in the international community, which, alas, quickly vanished. It soon became clear that there would be no talks in Jerusalem. As a result, our prime minister looks, firstly, a deceiver, and secondly, a collaborator who maintains contacts with the common enemy – supposedly to solve the narrow national problems of Israel. Why did Bennett think he had influence over the Russian president and could stop wars? Maybe Netanyahu's peacemaking laurels haunt him to such an extent that he had no time to think about the consequences of this hasty visit for his country?
One of the main claims of Ukraine – our refusal to supply a number of weapons, including those sold to other countries. In President Zelensky's speech, this topic sounded so harsh, as if Israel is able to protect the entire civilian population of Ukraine from missiles, but does not want to do this. The rest of the international community sees the situation in much the same way, and our arguments that the Iron Dome is ineffective in the Ukrainian situation remain unheeded. Meanwhile, Europe, the United States and NATO themselves reject radical and even more important steps for Ukraine, such as closing the skies, but cover their caution with fiery accusations against the Russian leadership. Israel, on the other hand, has not yet officially condemned the aggression against Ukraine, and has not joined the anti-Russian sanctions, which we have been reminded of quite sharply more than once or twice. If later it is necessary to look for those responsible for why Ukraine did not receive the necessary external support, then the first candidate for this role will be the Jewish state.
Of course, we have good reasons not to turn the Russian leadership against us, while continuing to keep pace with progressive humanity. It is for such situations that world diplomacy has invented many formulations that express the principled position of the state without offending anyone. But instead of using these valuable tools, our government is in complete disarray: some ministers say one thing, others – others, others avoid answering, everyone criticizes everyone, and it is obvious that there is a common attitude to what is happening. No one seems to understand that now is not the time to bring internal divisions to the surface if we do not want to become world outcasts.
Another example of thoughtless – uncoordinated refugee policy. While Western countries vied with each other to invite Ukrainians fleeing the war, promise them all possible benefits and show them miracles of hospitality, our rules are changing every day, and some politicians and government officials are publicly calling for refusal to grant asylum to non-Jews. To say that this harms our international image – means to say nothing. But for some, such statements are a convenient way to win the sympathy of voters. Is it any wonder that the new rules for the entry of Ukrainians, invented to facilitate the procedure, immediately gave rise to rumors about the abolition of the visa-free regime, because nothing good is expected from Israel lately.
All these miscalculations overshadow the real help that the Jewish state provides to Ukraine, and in fact nullify our recent achievements in foreign policy. We are again losing the information war on all counts.
Trust and respect for the Jewish state is falling. We can talk as much as we like about the threat of Iran, remind the world of the Holocaust, of those times when the Jewish state fought alone for its survival, when our children were sitting in basements under shelling. Today, no one will hear this, but the desperate calls of Ukraine and the silence of a strong, prosperous and well-armed Israel are clearly audible. When rockets will fly at us again – and it's only a matter of time before the international community not only won't intervene, but will also remember the awkward attempts to maintain neutrality in the Ukrainian war.
Author: Irina Petrova.
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