Israeli lawmakers urge Netanyahu to send Ukraine weapons
A bipartisan delegation of Israeli lawmakers met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv this week and called on the Israeli government to change its policy and provide Ukraine with military assistance.
Why it matters: It was the first time that Israeli lawmakers from both sides of the aisle issued a statement calling on the government to approve the sale of defensive military systems to Ukraine.
- Despite pressure, Israel has so far rejected most U.S. and Ukrainian requests to provide advanced and defensive weapons to Kyiv over concerns that such a move could create tension with Russia and harm Israeli security interests in Syria.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took office late year, recently ordered a review of Israel's policies toward the war. The review is ongoing.
Driving the news: Yuli Edelstein, a lawmaker from Netanyahu's Likud party who serves as chair of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and Ze'ev Elkin from the Blue and White opposition party arrived in Kyiv on Monday.
- It was the first official visit of a Knesset delegation to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Several days earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visited Kyiv and was the first Israeli minister to visit the Ukrainian capital since the start of the war.
- Edelstein and Elkin met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and with the head of the Ukrainian military intelligence service. They also met with Zelensky several hours after President Biden’s visit to Kyiv.
Behind the scenes: Elkin said Zelensky told the Israeli lawmakers that he expects a change in Israeli policy, but stressed he wants tangible things, including military assistance.
- Elkin added that Zelensky said he would be happy to work more closely with Israel on countering Iran. "Iran is a threat for both Israel and Ukraine," Elkin said.
- "The Iranian involvement makes it even more important because the Ukrainians don’t understand how Israel can do nothing."
What they're saying: In a statement at the end of their visit, Edelstein and Elkin stressed that Israel, as a country that knows the meaning of defending its independence and has suffered missile attacks on its civilian population, can’t sit idly by when this is happening in Ukraine.
- “Israel provided humanitarian assistance to Ukraine but we think it is not enough," the two lawmakers said.
- "We must stop being afraid and take a clear stand like any Western country," the statement added. "We must help Ukraine in every field that Israeli technology, including military technology, can help in defending its civilian population and its independence."
- Netanyahu has not responded to the lawmakers' calls.