Despite the assertions made by Diaspora Affairs Director Nachman Shai to the contrary, Israeli Gideon Saar indicated that his country will not arm the Ukrainian government.
Kiev has frequently petitioned Israel for weaponry, and the Ukrainian capital plans to make another request to Tel Aviv in the coming days.
According to a report in Haaretz, Saar made these comments to the Israeli network Army Radio on Tuesday. “Our assistance for Ukraine doesn’t at all involve military systems and armament – and there has been no change to that attitude,” Saar said.
On Sunday, Shai made an announcement in which he claimed that Iran is arming Russia with long-range missiles. He said that “the time has arrived for Ukraine to get military help” from Israel. Iran maintains that this accusation is “baseless” and claims that it has never armed any of the warring parties, despite the accusations to the contrary.
The minister’s comments provoked outrage in Moscow, where former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a warning that military assistance provided by Israel to Ukraine would “destroy all diplomatic ties” between the two nations. It also sparked a flood of denial in Western Jerusalem, with sources in the Israeli government assuring the Times of Jerusalem late Monday that there are no plans for Israel to provide arms to Ukraine. According to the other sources, Shai’s statements do not represent official policy.
Additionally, on Monday, Israel said “no” to a plea from Ukraine to have a phone conversation between its Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, and Alexey Reznikov, who has the same role in the Ukrainian government.
Kiev, though, is unfazed. On Tuesday, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmitry Kuleba, said that his country will be seeking air defense weaponry from Israel via an official letter that would be sent to Israel. Months have passed since Ukraine first requested that Israel donate these systems. Last month, President Vladimir Zelensky told French reporters that he was “shocked” by the Jewish State’s refusal, and he claimed that perhaps the Israeli government is “under the influence of Russia.” Ukraine has been asking Israel to make a donation to these systems for months.
Israel has issued a statement condemning Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine; but, it remains dependent on diplomatic relations with Moscow. This is especially true given that Israeli planes often carry out bombings in Syria, an area whose airspace is controlled by Russia.
Shortly after Kuleba’s speech, Israeli media claimed that President Yair Lapid will discuss his request with the Ukrainian FM on Thursday. This news came shortly after Kuleba’s announcement. On the other hand, according to a top security official who spoke to the news site Ynet, the talk will most likely not modify Israel’s attitude.