Israel refuses Ukrainian demand for weapons
Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar declared on Tuesday that his country will not send weapons to Ukraine, despite Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai previously suggesting otherwise. Kiev has repeatedly pressed West Jerusalem for arms.
“Our support for Ukraine does not include weapons systems and weaponry – and there is no change to that position,” Saar told Israeli broadcaster Army Radio on Tuesday, Haaretz reported.
Shai announced on Sunday that “the time has come for Ukraine to receive military aid” from Israel, claiming that Iran is supplying Russia with ballistic missiles. Iran insists that this claim is “baseless,” and that it has not armed either side of the conflict.
The minister’s statement sparked anger in Moscow, with former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warning that Israeli military aid to Ukraine would “destroy all diplomatic relations” between the two countries. It also set off a wave of disavowal in West Jerusalem, with government sources telling the Times of Israel on Monday that Israel does not plan on arming Ukraine. Shai’s comments do not reflect government policy, the sources added.
Israel also rejected a request from Ukraine on Monday to hold a phone call between its defense minister, Benny Gantz, and his Ukrainian counterpart, Alexey Reznikov.
Kiev, however, is undeterred. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said on Tuesday that his government would send an official note to Israel requesting air defense weapons. Ukraine has called on Israel to donate these systems for months, with President Vladimir Zelensky telling French reporters last month that he was “shocked” at the Jewish State’s refusal, and alleging that the Israeli government is under the “influence of Russia.”
While Israel has condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, it depends on diplomatic contact with Moscow, particularly as Israeli jets often conduct airstrikes in Syria, where Russia controls the airspace.
Shortly after Kuleba’s announcement, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Yair Lapid would speak to the Ukrainian FM about his request on Thursday. However, a senior security official told the Ynet news site that the conversation likely won’t change Israel’s stance.