Feb 24, 2022 - World

Israel condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine as a "violation of world order"

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Photo: Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

The Israeli government on Thursday condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a "violation of the world order."

Why it matters: It is a significant change in the Israeli position toward the Russia-Ukraine crisis. 

  • Israel had attempted to balance aligning itself with its biggest ally, the U.S., while maintaining good relations with Russia, with which it has an important security relationship. 
  • On Wednesday, Israel issued a statement that supported Ukraine's territorial integrity, but didn't condemn Russia. 

What they're saying: "The Russian attack on Ukraine is a violation of the world order and Israel condemns it. Israel is ready to give humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Israel knew many wars. War is not the way to solve conflicts," Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement Thursday.  

  • Several hours after Lapid’s statement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also addressed the situation in Ukraine during a speech to military cadets but didn’t condemn Russia.
  • “Like everyone else, we pray for peace and calm in Ukraine, and still hope that dialogue will lead to a resolution," Bennett said.
  • "These are difficult and tragic moments, and our hearts are with the civilians that, through no fault of their own, have been thrust into this situation. Israel will mobilize to extend humanitarian aid as needed," he added.
  • One of Lapid’s aides told me the prime minister and the foreign minister were coordinated and approved both messages “which were not contradictory but complementary."

Behind the scenes: The European Union and several of its member states in recent days pressed Israel to take a firmer position against Russia, a senior EU official told me. 

  • After the attacks began early Thursday, Israel had to take a much clearer position, Israeli officials said. 
  • On Thursday morning, Lapid and Bennett held several consultations about escalating Israel's public response. 
  • Israeli officials told me they are not concerned about paying a price for the stronger position against Russia due to Israel's close and good relationship with Moscow.

Russia officials told Israel later on Thursday that Moscow is going "to contain" the Israeli condemnation, but will not create tensions over it or retaliate, two Israeli officials told me.

  • Meanwhile, Lapid spoke on the phone with Secretary of State Tony Blinken about the Ukraine crisis.
  • According to an Israeli official, Blinken welcomed the Israel's condemnation of the Russian invasion.

Don't forget: Russia holds enormous influence in neighboring Syria but allows Israel to operate freely against Iranian activity there. 

  • Yes, but: The Israeli officials told me they don't think the Israeli position on the Russian invasion will harm its operations in Syria. 

What's next: Israeli officials said the next decision will be whether to join the international sanctions against Russia. 

Go deeper: Ukraine-Russia crisis latest developments

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Bennett's comments.

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