Israel’s reluctance to choose sides strains relations with Ukraine

September 13, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during their meeting in Jerusalem on Jan. 24, 2020. (Oded Balilty/AFP via Getty Images)

While most developed countries have been providing military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its all-out war, one country has remained sitting conspicuously on the fence – Israel.

Since February 2022, Israel – a country with a strong military and some of the best air defense technologies – hasn’t provided any tangible military aid to Ukraine.

“Israel has given us nothing. Nothing. Zero,” President Volodymyr Zelensky complained in an interview in September 2022.

A year later, little has changed. “Months (of negotiations) have passed, but there is no result yet,” Zelensky said on July 12.

In June 2023, the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel outright accused the country’s leadership of acting immorally by taking “a clear pro-Russian position” by not helping Ukraine more.

Now, Kyiv is also accusing Israel of mistreating its citizens inside the country, deporting over 2,000 Ukrainians in 2023, according to the embassy.

The Israeli government says in its defense that it has been helpful – providing helmets and body armor, as well as extensive medical and financial support. Israel is also working on a civil alert system, promised to Ukraine in February.

But there’s more to this position than meets the eye: Picking apart Israel’s strictly humanitarian policy towards Ukraine reveals a complex balancing act that involves Russia, Syria, and Iran – all of which play a role in the country’s security situation.

“I think Israel is in a peculiar situation, different from say, Poland or Germany or France or any of the Western countries that are assisting Ukraine,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, defending his country’s dull reaction to Ukrainian requests.

Netanyahu and Zelensky will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Yet, despite obvious security precautions, Israel’s relations with Ukraine is slipping into uncharted territory, with both countries piling grievances, and exchanging diplomatic jabs.

Hezbollah, Russia, and Syria

One of the key reasons for Israel’s reluctance to help Ukraine win the war militarily is simple: It still works closely with Russia.

Russia is important for Israel’s military operations in neighboring Syria, where Israel has been carrying out airstrikes against Iran-backed militias, mainly those of Hezbollah.

“First of all, we have a close military border with Russia. Our pilots are flying right next to Russian pilots over the skies of Syria,” Netanyahu said in his June interview with The Jerusalem Post.

Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon, north of Israel. It has a great deal of influence on Lebanese domestic politics, and the social services it provides are so extensive that it has earned the group the reputation of being “a state within a state.”

It has also sworn to destroy Israel, and the group has carried out attacks against Israel and the country’s civilians.

Dozens of countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, have designated either Hezbollah’s military wing, or all of its structures, as a terrorist organization.

The group is almost entirely trained and funded by Iran, Israel’s arch-foe in the region.

An Iranian schoolboy who wears a military uniform of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps holds a Hezbollah flag while waiting to perform in an anti-Israel protest in downtown Tehran on August 9, 2022. (Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Iran supplies Hezbollah with weapons through Syria – hence the alleged Israeli strikes on Iranian arms-production facilities, militia bases, and weapons caches in that neighboring country.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Russia and Iran have been helping Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad stay in power, with Russian forces attacking anti-regime rebels on the ground, in the air, and at sea.

Despite Russia having close ties with Iran, the Kremlin doesn’t take sides in Israel’s skirmishes with Tehran.

Dr. Omer Dostri, a specialist in strategy and Israeli national security at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told the Kyiv Independent that the security interests of the Assad regime, Russia, and Israel are now intertwined.

“The fact that Russia controls the southern and western regions of Syria, which border Israel, means that the two nations now (effectively) share a border,” Dostri said.

With both Israel and Russia being militarily active in Syria, the two countries have established a “deconfliction mechanism” – specific lines of communication, coordinating their actions to avoid accidental clashes between their forces.

Israeli officials are reportedly worried about any potential for disruption to this important mechanism if the country were to increase its support for Ukraine.

“The purpose of the Israeli army is to prevent the terrorist actions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is located in Syria, and the transfer of weapons to another terrorist organization, Hezbollah, which is located in Lebanon,” Arkady Mil-Man, the Head of the Russia Program at Tel-Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies and the former Israeli Ambassador to Russia, told the Kyiv Independent.

“This is the main axis of this cooperation (between Israel and Russia)… And this is to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens,” Mil-Man added.

“If coordination is disrupted, then it will be very difficult for us, because the Russian air defense systems… could be directed against our aircraft.”

At the same time, Russia’s presence in Syria “acts as a limiting factor for both the Assad regime and Iranian forces, to some extent,” according to Dostri.

The Israelis don’t want Russian forces to be relocated to Ukraine and leave Syria, adds Mark Katz, a professor at George Mason University and a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East program.

“Because then the Iranians would be able to do a lot more in Syria,” Katz told the Kyiv Independent.

Jewish diaspora

Another important consideration for Israel’s foreign policy is the constant flow of Jewish immigrants who come to Israel from all over the world, including – in large numbers – from Russia.

According to Israel’s Law of Return, every Jew, including those who have converted to Judaism, is entitled to Israeli citizenship. This right to return is called aliyah in Hebrew and has been crucial to building Israel’s Jewish identity. The law was initially passed in 1950, just two years after the establishment of the State of Israel.

Russia’s full-out war against Ukraine prompted a huge spike in the number of Russian Jews immigrating to Israel, even topping immigration from Ukraine.

Passengers disembark from an airplane carrying Jewish immigrants fleeing Russia’s war in Ukraine, upon arrival in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, on March 6, 2022. (Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

Half of all of the immigrants that came to Israel in 2022 under the Law of Return – 23,789 people – came from Russia, the Times of Israel reported in September, citing Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. In contrast, only 13,097 people came from Ukraine.

Huge numbers of people in Russia still qualify to immigrate, and due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, the issue has become controversial.

In July of 2022, Russia’s Ministry of Justice requested the dissolution of the Russia-based Jewish Agency for Israel, reportedly for legal issues surrounding the collection of data on Russian citizens. Court hearings on the matter have since been postponed, but the organization has already begun denying certain services and is undergoing “reorganization,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

The Jewish Agency for Israel has been supporting Jewish communities in Russia and facilitated immigration to Israel since 1989, and has been important in Russia-Israel relations. While the Kremlin specifically stated that the case against the agency should not be politicized, Israeli officials are worried that cracking down on it is a way to punish Israel for helping Ukraine.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned Moscow back in July 2022 that the closure of the agency would be a “grave event” that would damage relations between the two countries.

“Russia can make life for Jewish communities very difficult,” Katz told the Kyiv Independent.

Iran's involvement in Ukraine

Many hoped that Israel would show more support for Ukraine when its main adversary, Iran, last year began supplying the Kremlin with weapons to attack Ukraine. But not much has changed.

Russia has already used many hundreds of Iranian-made drones to launch mass attacks against Ukraine and its capital, Kyiv, killing and injuring civilians.

An elderly woman walks past an apartment building destroyed by a Russian drone strike, which local authorities consider to be Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) Shahed-136, in central Kyiv. At least four people have been killed as a result of a drone attack on a residential building in Kyiv on the morning of Octю 17, 2022. (Photo by Oleksii Chumachenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“The same drones that are destroying Ukraine today are also aimed at Israel,” the BBC reported Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as saying in October, with reference to militant anti-Israel groups supported by Iran.

Israel initially reacted by promising to give Ukraine early-warning radar systems, which could play a limited role in protecting civilians by better detecting Russian missiles and drones in the sky. However, the systems are yet to begin operating.

U.S. news website Axios has also reported, citing government sources in Israel and Ukraine, that Israel has allegedly approved export licenses for drone-jamming defensive weapons. This could be in preparation for sale or for an aid package to Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say helping Ukraine militarily helps Israel’s security interests, as it could weaken Iran and give Israel an opportunity to gather crucial information about Iranian weapons.

Israel, however, sees such help carrying additional risks. For example, Russia’s close cooperation with Iran is one of the reasons why Israel refuses to give Ukraine its Iron Dome air defense system, fearing that Iran might gain valuable military secrets if part of the system were to be captured.

This would hugely compromise Israel’s security, former Ambassador Mil-Man said.


  1. “One of the key reasons for Israel’s reluctance to help Ukraine win the war militarily is simple: It still works closely with Russia.”

    Israel will be forced to face a harsh reality one day, and this might be sooner than they realize. This will happen when Iran starts using its new weapons on Israel that it will get from mafia land.
    Just the other day, the Mossad chief said that Israel is worried Russia will sell advanced weapons to Iran. No doubt, this will come to pass because what else can mafia land offer to Iran for its drones and other military aid?
    Israel’s walk on the tightrope is very precarious, and it would be better to jump off at the right place to join the forces of righteousness. So far, it’s playing a stupid, dangerous game with a filthy, fascist crime syndicate. This never ends well.

  2. The Netanyahu regime is a disgrace to Israel and a disgrace to Jews worldwide.
    The Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Reuven Azman, is very active helping his people and all Ukrainians. He makes frequent trips to the war zone to deliver humanitarian aid.
    The putinaZis tried to murder him in Kherson; he’s easy to spot as he’s a chubby fellow who wears full religious regalia. A shell hit just a few metres from him.
    He has met Netanyahu several times, in attempt to improve relations. To no avail so far.
    He came to London to meet Boris and senior members of the British Jewish community. He came away with substantial donations.
    He and all Ukrainian Jews must be ashamed of Netanyahu, who is afraid of upsetting putler.
    As he points out, Ukrainian Jews are victims too. Recently a young Jewish couple; both teachers, were blown up by putler in the Kharkiv region.

    • I simply can’t understand Israel’s stand in all of this. They’ve never acted so completely brainless before. Must be the massive influx of rotten ruskie genes.

      • Israel considers an open anti-ruSSian position a threat to its safety, in particular concerning the fact that Iran is a ruSSian ally and Biden is a pussy.

      • Most of the Russians in Israel are not Jewish.
        After the influx of soviet Jews, criminals in Russia built a business of faking historical Jewish credentials.
        Hence now Israel is crawling with putinoid scum and is described by putler as a “Russian-speaking country.”

        • So, as I understand it, Israel was massively duped by criminal ruskie scum. This doesn’t look well for the purported intelligence of Jews.

          • Totalitarian regimes always plan their evil far ahead.
            The Soviet Jewish exodus was a chance for the KGB/FSB to get their own scum embedded for just such an event.
            In the U.K. , it was the trade unions that were targeted back in the 60’s. Rabid commies fomented hundreds of strikes to drive the Tories out and get their Marxist Labour allies in.
            The first PM to take these turds on was Maggie Thatcher, but her good work was undone by years of Blair/Brown.
            Those commie fucktards were able to breed. The result is that the U.K. Trade Union movement is currently dominated by Irish communists who hate Britain and are becoming more openly pro-putler.

            • It seems that it was not only Britain was asleep at the wheel all those years. This is bad enough. What makes things even worse is that they are still sleeping.

  3. The corrupt Netanyahu is ready to sell out democracy in his country to avoid ending up in prison – just like Yeltsin at the time…
    we immediately see the ethics of some: after me the flood!

    That being said, Zelenski should be careful though because Netanyahu could get Monika Lewinski in his way once again!
    you can do like Churchill but don’t play with the cigar!
    😀 😉

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