Meeting Zelensky, Knesset Members Urge Israeli Military Assistance to Ukraine
by Ben Cohen
Two Israeli Knesset members paying an official visit to Ukraine have called on Israel’s leaders to step up their assistance to the democratic government in Kyiv, urging the supply of weapons to combat the ongoing Russian invasion.
Following a meeting in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday, parliamentarians Yuli Edelstein and Ze’ev Elkin issued a forthright statement that praised Israel for mounting a humanitarian operation, but urged that this commitment be matched in military terms.
“It has been a year since the Ukrainian people heroically defended their land from the Russian invasion,” the statement declared. “In this terrible war, not only military personnel, but also civilians, elderly people, women, children die. Russia continues to shell Ukrainian cities, including the city of Kharkiv, where one of us was born and grew up.”
Elkin, an opposition member of the Knesset who emigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union in 1990, was born in Kharkiv, while Edelstein, a former Soviet refusenik and a member of the ruling Likud-led government, hails from the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi.
The two politicians argued that Israel, as a component of the western alliance, needed to follow the US and several EU member states in boosting Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. “Israel has provided and will continue to provide extensive humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but in our opinion, this is not enough,” they said. “Israel should significantly intensify its support for Ukraine and can and should do much more than it has done so far.”
The statement called for assistance to Ukraine “in all areas in which Israeli technologies, including military ones, can help Ukraine protect the civilian population and its freedom and independence.” Addressing Russia’s military alliance with Iran, which has introduced deadly Iranian-manufactured drones into Moscow’s military arsenal, the MPs stressed that Iran “openly declares its desire to destroy the state of Israel, sponsors terror against Israel and its civilians, and aspires to possess a nuclear bomb.”
They continued: “There is no doubt that a common challenge in the field of security of the State of Israel and Ukraine is the Russian-Iranian military-political rapprochement. Iran gains new combat experience every day by testing its weapons in Ukraine.”
In a message directed to Zelensky, Edelstein and Elkin stated, “Mr. President, as natives of Ukraine, whose relatives live today in Ukraine under bombing, we know firsthand how difficult it is for you today. But truth and justice always win, and we have no doubt whose side they are on. That is why we are here with you today.”
The visit follows the presence in Ukraine last week of Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who condemned the slaughter in Ukraine but was criticized by some Ukrainian politicians for not acknowledging Russia’s responsibility for the bloodshed.
Israel has been reticent to supply Ukraine with weapons out of concern with Russia’s military presence in neighboring Syria.
Ukraine’s Ambassdor in Tel Aviv, Yevhen Korniychuk, told Ukrainian media outlets that Edelstein and Elkin’s joint visit demonstrated that they had “heard from their American colleagues who are dissatisfied with the level of cooperation between Israel and Ukraine.”
“It should be remembered that Israeli society is quite active in supporting Ukraine and it is probably not possible to delay any longer,” the envoy added.