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February 22, 2023 12:54 pm

Speculation Grows Over Possible Netanyahu Visit to Ukraine

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is welcomed to the presidential palace in Kiev by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Aug. 19, 2019. Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO.

Ukrainian media outlets on Wednesday were rife with speculation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Kyiv soon, days after US President Joe Biden paid a demonstrative visit to the Ukrainian capital.

The source of the conjecture over Netanyahu’s possible visit was a report on Tuesday in the Israeli news outlet Israel Hayom, which quoted unnamed Israeli officials saying that a visit to Kyiv was being explored.

Mindful of Russia’s military presence in neighboring Syria, Israeli leaders have been reluctant to alienate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime by supplying weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces or engaging in high-profile solidarity visits. However, Netanyahu was reportedly encouraged by the relatively muted Russian reaction to the presence in Kyiv last week of Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who declared his support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan.

Nor has the Israeli leader ruled out the prospect of military aid, with Zelensky reporting that Netanyahu had “assured” him, following his election victory in Nov. 2022, that “he would deal with this issue as soon as possible, or think about how he can help, and will return with an answer.”

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Separately, Ukrainian officials told Israel Hayom that an invitation to Netanyahu had been extended for a visit that would include a meeting with Zelensky. A date for the visit is yet to be agreed.

Earlier this week, two Israeli Knesset members visiting Ukraine urged the government in Jerusalem 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,” Yuli Edelstein and Ze’ev Elikin, said in a joint statement. “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 two parliamentarians 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.”

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