Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's address to the Knesset did not receive a warm reception inside the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, an Israeli official said Sunday night, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett committed to declining Zelensky's call for Israel to sell Ukraine advanced weapons systems.
According to a report by Channel 13 Sunday evening, Bennett's office was offended by Zelensky and his criticism of Israeli government policy. A government official claimed that this was a "serious disrespect to the Holocaust," but clarified that it would not stop the Israeli mediation efforts. The official did stress, however, that Israel will not sell weapons to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Knesset announced that during the speech of Ukrainian President Zelensky, a number of cyber-attack attempts were thwarted, which aimed to disrupt the broadcast. The Knesset emphasized that all attempts were stopped by the Knesset's cyber security unit, with the cooperation and assistance of the National Cyber Directorate.
In his speech tonight, Zelensky compared the Russian invasion of his country to the actions of Nazi Germany: "The date of the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the date the Nazi party was formed. Eighty years ago we saved Jews – the nation of Israel, now you have a choice to make. Russia wants to carry out a 'Final Solution’ to Ukraine.”
Zelensky then referred to Israel's failure to respond to its requests for military assistance: “It is known that the Iron Dome is the best system, and the Jews of Ukraine must also be protected. I ask why it is not possible to weapons from you? Why did Israel not impose sanctions on Russia? Why are you not exerting pressure on businesses in Russia? You have to answer these questions and live with them. "
Earlier on Sunday, a number of government ministers and Israeli lawmakers chastised Zelensky over his comparisons of the Russian invasion to the Holocaust, claiming that he belittled the memory of the Holocaust with his words.
"The president of Ukraine attacked Israel and made an outrageous comparison to the Holocaust. This is a distortion of history," the ministers said.
Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel (Blue and White) said that he "respects the President of Ukraine and supports the Ukrainian people in heart and deed, but the terrible history of the Holocaust cannot be rewritten -- genocide that was committed even on Ukrainian soil. The war is terrible but the comparison to the atrocities of the Holocaust and the Final Solution is outrageous."
Members of the opposition also sharply criticized Zelensky's speech.
MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism) said: "I do not understand Ukrainian, but if the translation I heard is accurate, Zelensky asked us to behave towards the Ukrainians as they behaved towards us 80 years ago. Sorry, I think we will have to pass on his request. Regardless [of what they did to us], we are a moral nation, a light unto the nations."
The chairman of Religious Zionism, MK Bezalel Smotrich, added, "I attended Ukrainian President Zelensky’s speech on Zoom, to express solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. His criticism of Israel is legitimate and so is his voicing of expectations from us. Not so is his outrageous and unfounded comparison to the Holocaust, and his attempt to rewrite history and erase the involvement of the Ukrainian people in the extermination of the Jews in it."
MK Orit Strook (Religious Zionism) responded to Zelensky's speech: "Our hearts, as well as our support and efforts, are with the Ukrainian people, who are now suffering a brutal, unjustified attack, which is inflicting heavy losses. From here to a comparison to the Holocaust – the distance is great.
"The comparison to Nazism, the use of the phrase 'the Final Solution,' and the mention of Babi Yar – are out of place. As members of the House of Representatives of the State of Israel -- we cannot agree to that."