The tension around Russia and Ukraine has reached such intensity that the logic and arguments about who benefits from the war no longer work. At any moment everything possible and impossible can happen; as the poet accurately noted, “a bullet will find a hole.” It is increasingly difficult for Israel to exercise restraint in order not to be drawn into this fast-paced and dangerous maelstrom.
To some extent, we are already drawn into it. When two dozen governments, from the US and Belgium to Iraq and the Palestinian Authority, withdraw their citizens and diplomats from Ukraine, we react with all seriousness. Everyone ran, and we are also running, and in the forefront. The same applies to the call to aliyah of Ukrainian Jews: we know well who always becomes the last in any conflicts. True, of the 15,000 Israelis in Ukraine, only a third expressed a desire to leave, and our officials themselves admit that they do not have accurate information about a possible war, but in such cases it is better to be safe than sorry.
Such precautions will not spoil our relations with Moscow. Quite the contrary: for Putin, the flight of foreigners from Ukraine – a flattering confirmation that the world fears him and recognizes his strength. It is no coincidence that the world community does not evacuate its citizens even from the border regions of Russia – that is, the course of hostilities is obvious to everyone in advance.
«Panic– the best friend of the enemy,” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky sadly noted. By participating in the global panic, Israel is only playing into the hands of Putin, and here we are not risking anything. Of course, the diplomatic outcome irritates the Ukrainian leadership, but it is unlikely to lead to a chill between Kiev and Jerusalem.
Only the alleged participation of the IDF in the evacuation of Israelis “in case of urgent need” raises questions. We are talking about transport military aircraft, and if, God forbid, such an aircraft is accidentally fired upon, this will already be an armed clash between Israel and Russia (or Ukraine). But all sides will try to prevent such a turn; with the first shot, all flights over Ukraine will stop. As for Israel, we already had the Syrian experience of ambiguous situations, which all the participants put on the brakes. Thus, one should not be afraid that the cause of the third world war, about which President Biden speaks with such pathos, will be the Russian-Israeli clash.
The real danger for our country in this conflict lies not in the military, but in the political sphere, and, surprisingly, comes from the West. The course towards the international isolation of Russia, the desire to take it outside the framework of the civilized world community, puts Israel in front of a difficult choice, where there is not a single good option. The only acceptable option – evade this choice in some way. Israel is doing everything possible for this: our leaders have never expressed support for one or another side of the conflict. But words are not enough today. The refusal to sell Israeli weapons to Ukraine has already made a bad impression on the West, and they expect some kind of rehabilitation from us, a symmetrical step confirming Israel's belonging to a civilized community.
Of course, no one will force us to send troops to Ukraine, but the question of the widespread introduction of anti-Russian sanctions can be raised very harshly. If Biden and Europe take the “who is not with us is against us” position, Israel will be cornered. And if the promised sanctions are similar to those imposed against Iran, this will be a huge blow to the Israeli economy. Today, observers are warning of economic damage from halting or reducing imports from Ukraine of wheat, cereals, metals, etc., but these losses cannot be compared with the damage that will be caused by restricting trade and economic cooperation with Russia.
But the worst thing is something else. Strategically, a quarrel with Moscow means for us fatal uncertainty in Syria, a threat to the Russian Jewish community, and Kremlin support for Iran's anti-Israeli stance – All this with the most unpredictable consequences. Russia – not the most reliable partner, but she can be a very dangerous enemy.
In a word, in any case, it is beneficial for Israel to maintain trusting relations with it. Even the inevitable rapprochement between Moscow and other outcasts of the Western world – Iran and China – we could use it to our advantage by enlisting Russian help to curb Iranian ambitions. It is unlikely that the Kremlin will want to allow a war between its few remaining allies.
Unfortunately, little depends on us here. The US and, to a lesser extent, Europe will pressure Israel to join their camp.
Can we ignore such demands? Alas, even in the best of times it would be risky. And today, the dissatisfaction of Washington and Brussels, among other things, threatens to affect the negotiations on the resumption of the Iranian nuclear deal. Disillusioned with Israel's loyalty, Western negotiators may agree to all the conditions of the ayatollahs and conclude an agreement that will allow Tehran to acquire an atomic bomb as soon as possible.
-the Russian conflict was remembered as rarely as possible. At first glance, it even seems that our vigorous activity in the evacuation of citizens and olims from Ukraine is harmful, since it attracts too much attention. Invitation for repatriation, involvement of the army and military aviation – why make a fuss about the whole world?
In fact, such persistence is justified. The fewer Israelis and Jews left in Ukraine during this troubled time, the lower the likelihood of anti-Semitic provocations that will force us to intervene in the conflict, even at the diplomatic level. Such intervention is expected from the Jewish state by both sides, which still consider us allies. And this is exactly what Israel needs to avoid.
Author//: Irina Petrova