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July 12, 2022 4:08 pm
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Israel Approves Goodwill Gestures to Ukraine, Palestinians Ahead of Biden Visit

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

A worker irons an American flag as part of the preparations for U.S. President Joe Biden visit later this week, inside the Israeli President residence, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022. REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

Israeli officials approved a series of goodwill measures for Ukraine and the Palestinians on Tuesday, hours before President Joe Biden is expected to kick off his Middle East tour with a much-anticipated visit to the Jewish state.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz authorized the delivery of additional defensive aid to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine, to be delivered in the coming weeks. The shipment includes 1,500 helmets, 1,500 protective vests, hundreds of protective suits for mine clearance, as well as a thousand gas masks and tens of accompanying filters.

The move can be seen as an overture to both Kyiv and Washington ahead of Biden’s arrival on Wednesday.

Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, Jerusalem has attempted to thread a fine needle between backing its Western allies and avoiding a rupture in relations with Russia, which maintains extensive influence and a military presence in neighboring Syria, where the IDF operates to prevent Iranian entrenchment.

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While Israel has condemned Moscow, sought to mediate between the warring parties, and extended humanitarian support and defensive equipment to Ukraine, it has refused to transfer any lethal military aid. Washington, in turn, has sought to drum up more support for Ukraine among its Middle East allies, including by reportedly asking Jerusalem in April to consider increasing military support.

Nonetheless, Israel reportedly turned down a US request in May to allow the transfer of Israeli-developed anti-tank missiles to Ukraine — emphasizing that it was only willing to provide Ukraine with nonlethal military equipment, amid concerns that Russian troops would be killed with Israeli weapons.

In a related development, Gen. Ghassan Alian, Israel’s head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), announced on Tuesday that Gantz signed off on a series moves following a security assessment and his meeting Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli media reported.

These include the approval of six Palestinian construction plans in the West Bank; an increase of 1,500 in the number of Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip who are allowed to enter Israel; and legalization of the status of 5,500 previously undocumented individuals living in the Palestinian territories. The opening of a West Bank crossing to allow the entry of Israeli Arabs into Jenin — a city that was at the epicenter of recent Israeli military efforts to stem a wave of terrorism — was also greenlit.

Additionally, a meeting to advance the construction of 2,000 homes in eastern Jerusalem, which was set to take place Sunday, was pushed back, after a request from the office of Prime Minister Yair Lapid. While Israel regards Jerusalem as its undivided capital, the Palestinian Authority claims eastern portions of the city for a future state.

The delay was likely meant to avert any potential diplomatic fallout stemming from a construction announcement coinciding with Biden’s visit. In 2010, housing units were approved in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo while Biden was in Israel, eliciting a condemnation from the then-vice president and casting a pall over his visit.

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