Israeli aid reaches Ukraine
Israeli aid reaches Ukraine Field hospital workers

In an interview with Israel Hayom, Yevgen Korniychuk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel, predicted that what he described as a recent rapprochement between Russia and Iran would result in closer ties between Israel and Ukraine -- and, more to the point, in more significant Israeli aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia.

Despite expressions of support of Ukraine by leading Israeli politicians, most prominently caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid who, as Foreign Minister, condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine, Israel has not supplied Ukraine with military materiel and has confined its aid to the setting up of a field hospital in Lviv, parcels of bandages (worth millions of shekels), and other similar items. This stance has been criticized by Ukraine, with its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy recently telling French media that he is "shocked that Israel is giving us nothing. I don't understand why they haven't given us aerial defense systems. Israel hasn't supplied us with a thing. Nothing. Zilch."

Recently, however, as Korniychuk noted, Iran has begun supplying Russia with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) which has prompted a number of additional countries to come to Ukraine's assistance. The ambassador now has hopes that Israel, too, will be motivated by this development, although he acknowledged that until elections are over and the country has a stable government, it is unlikely that policy changes will be made in foreign relations.

"This rapprochement between Russia and Iran is very significant and could really change the balance," he said. "We have been warning for some time that Iran has pretty good UAVs, even prior to the signing of a deal between Russia and Iran -- these drones can carry a heavy payload, and they pose a threat to Israel too. I think that public opinion will swing much further in Ukraine's favor in Israel once they take this on board. We are of course very grateful for the supplies of bandages that Israel has been sending, but we're not going to win the war with bandages," he added.

According to Israel Hayom, changes can already be detected in Israeli policy with regard to Ukraine, such as the government's decision to accept two out of twenty wounded Ukrainian soldiers for treatment and rehabilitation in Israel, funded by public money. Furthermore, the Israeli government has announced that it will not recognize Russia's annexation of several parts of the contested Donbass region, which has a large ethnic Russian population, following referenda held there that ostensibly returned overwhelming support for absorption into the Russian Federation.

"This was a welcome step," Korniychuk said, "although we had expressed our view that taking a firm stand was preferable."

He added, however, that Ukraine hopes for financial assistance too. "One of the things that isn't clear to me is why Israel has refused to provide us with a government loan of half a billion dollars," he said. "More than 20 countries have provided us with such loans. What's stopping them? The relevant government ministers have trumpeted their neutrality, but as French President Emmanuel Macron has said, 'Countries that call themselves neutral are in practice allying themselves with Russia."

Asked whether his criticism was directed specifically against Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has been quoted as saying that he is "not supporting Ukraine or Russia, but rather Israel," Korniychuk said, "I admit that he was speaking on behalf of the government - however, recent statements made by [Health] Minister Horowitz have been more positive in tone."

He added that, "It's quite obvious that the issue of a loan is stuck in the Finance Ministry [which Liberman's party, Yisrael Beytenu, controls], and all my attempts to arrange a meeting with the relevant officials have been stonewalled. In fact, Liberman is the only minister I haven't succeeded in meeting, which is why I have to resort to sending him messages via the media. It appears to me that his pro-Israel stance is nothing more than manipulation that stems from the desires of certain Israeli politicians to work together with Russia, which is an aggressive nation just as Iran is.

"I think Russia's decision to grow closer to Iran was shooting itself in the foot," he added.

The Ukrainian ambassador then addressed a recent statement made by opposition leader Netanyahu in which he expressed a wish to "help find a solution to the tragedy in Ukraine."

"They speak about what is happening in Ukraine as if we were going through a natural disaster, as if a tsunami had hit us," Korniychuk said. "Yair Lapid is the only Israeli politician who has actually condemned Russia for invading our country. When former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tried to broker a deal between us and Russia, Netanyahu criticized him for wasting his time. All the same, Netanyahu himself tried, before war broke out, to avert the conflict - I will credit him with that.

"Israeli politicians in general have no sense of long-term strategy," he added. "All their decisions seem to be made on a day-to-day basis. Everyone knows that Ukraine is going to win the war, so why aren't they thinking about the day after? Right now is the moment of truth, when our true friends show their colors."