Israel explains reluctance to arm Ukraine
Israel is not supplying Ukraine with weapons because it is bound by certain agreements with Russia over neighboring Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
Speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Netanyahu was asked whether Israel would continue to refrain from sending arms to Kiev. The prime minister admitted that when it comes to this issue, Israel had found itself “in a complex situation.”
“Israeli pilots and Russian pilots are flying within spitting distance of each other over the skies of Syria,” he said, adding that several years ago he had decided to stop Iran, Israel’s arch enemy, from creating a “third front” against the Jewish state on its northern border.
Israel has repeatedly warned Syria against sheltering Hezbollah militia members, an organization it has designated as terrorist and deems to be linked to Iran. Syrian officials have on numerous occasions accused Israel of conducting deadly strikes on the nation’s territory.
“To prevent that [the third front], we used air power… To do that, we had an arrangement struck with the Russian government and with the Russian Air Force, and the Russian Army in Syria that we do not shoot down each other’s planes,” he noted, adding that no other European country supporting Ukraine had similar circumstance in its relations with Moscow.
“We have that issue, I openly say it here. In other words, we have complex considerations… but within those limitations… we’re trying to offer humanitarian and defensive assistance to Ukraine,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister noted that Israel is helping Ukraine with cutting-edge early warning systems. He claimed that this equipment pinpoints the locations targeted by Russian strikes, allowing the areas where civilians are urged to seek shelter to be narrowed down.
After Russia started its military operation against Ukraine in February 2022, Israel condemned its actions but never joined the Western sanctions against Moscow and has been reluctant to supply Kiev with arms.
It has also rebuffed Ukraine’s requests for its Iron Dome air defense systems, arguing it does not “have a large enough production base” to meet Kiev’s needs.
However, on Wednesday, Axios reported, citing sources, that Israel had approved export licenses for the possible sale of jamming anti-drone systems to Kiev. However, Israeli officials told the outlet that the move does not mark a shift in the nation’s policies over the conflict, because the equipment is defensive in nature and jams a UAV's signal rather than targeting it with munitions, meaning it could not harm Russian soldiers.