After months of reluctance, Israel is softening up to Kyiv’s pleas for military aid in the face of Russia’s attacks in Ukraine using Iranian Shahed-136 drones and expected shipment of Iranian ballistic missiles.
A major turning point was Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz promising to provide Ukraine with early warning systems (but not air defense systems as Ukraine had asked) and starting to share its intelligence. Israel’s calculations changed over fears that Iran’s involvement in the war will allow it to hone its strikes against Israel, according to Bloomberg.
In his interview with Euromaidan Press, Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky refuses to talk about military cooperation as this must be kept secret, says that Israel has never been neutral on Ukraine, and tells why Israel did and at the same time did not join sanctions against Russia.
EP: Recently, Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted a positive trend in cooperation between Ukraine and Israel and revealed details of that in the defense and intelligence sectors, although a month ago he was critical of Israel’s neutral position, saying that he was shocked by the lack of help from Israel. What made Israel stop its neutrality and keep it for so long before?
Michael Brodsky: First of all, my position on the issue of military cooperation is very simple: issues of military cooperation should not be discussed in the press, and should not be discussed in the public space.
These questions should be dealt with by specialists through special channels and any publications, any statements by politicians and diplomats in the open space only harm this cooperation. Therefore, if there is interest in achieving results, such contacts and everything related to this field must be kept secret.[quote]Israel has never been neutral on the issue of Ukraine, and it is a great delusion to say that Israel is supposedly sitting on the fence.[/quote] From the very first day of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Israel stood against the war, against Russian aggression.
Israel not only supported Ukraine at the UN and voted for the resolution that condemned the Russian aggression but also co-authored the resolution without any request from the Ukrainian side. It was our principled moral position and it is the position we still hold to this day.
During all the long months of the war, Israel didn’t change its position.
[quote]We support Ukraine, we provide great assistance to Ukraine. First and foremost this is humanitarian aid, everyone knows about it.[/quote] If needed, I can briefly talk about what Israel has done. I think everyone in Ukraine knows about it, but if needed I will.
Israel was the first and only country that opened a field hospital in Ukraine. And during the time that this hospital existed – it was not far from Lviv – 6,000 people received medical care. These were both locals and refugees who were in western Ukraine.
Israel has transferred and continues to transfer humanitarian aid to Ukraine amounting to hundreds of tons of medicines, food, water, and generators that we supplied at the very beginning of the war.
We didn’t know yet that there would be an attack on critical infrastructure, but we understood that there was such a possibility.
Therefore, 6 mega generators, rather expensive, were delivered to Lviv Oblast and helped Lviv and the oblast to maintain the energy supply for hospitals and schools despite the attacks on the infrastructure.
Does Israel continue to provide humanitarian aid? For example, the generators that Ukraine needs now? Or not anymore?
Israel continues to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine very actively from day one of the war. We admit wounded Ukrainian soldiers to different hospitals in Israel. They come for prosthetics, they come for rehabilitation.
We are admitting children from Ukraine who suffer from cancer, they are undergoing very long and serious treatment in Israel. And this aid will continue, as well as the various kinds of humanitarian aid that we keep providing to Ukraine and especially to those regions in eastern Ukraine that have suffered the most from the hostilities.
Israel is “in fact” implementing the sanctions regime
Israel has not joined sanctions against Russia. Is development possible in this direction?[quote]Israel has no practice of joining unilateral sanctions against any country. If you look at the history of Israel, there has never been in Israeli history when we imposed sanctions against any country. We simply do not have such a possibility in law.[/quote]
And Israel said from the very beginning that it would not circumvent the sanctions, it is not in our interests. So Israel is in fact implementing the sanctions regime and complying with all the restrictions that were imposed by the West, the United States, and Europe regarding cooperation with Russia.
In this sense, Israel is fully compliant with the requirements that are imposed on other countries as well.[quote]Formally, Israel didn’t join the sanctions, but that does not mean that Israel didn’t impose restrictions, these are very serious restrictions and this is seen in practice, I will not go into detail.
But the answer is that Israel does not act to circumvent international sanctions against Russia. [/quote]
What weapons can Israel provide?
This topic should not be discussed in the press, let the experts deal with it. In our case, it is wrong.
Perhaps in dealing with NATO countries the situation is different. If you look at the lists of countries that give weapons to Ukraine, those are exclusively NATO countries. Not all, but most NATO countries give weapons to Ukraine.
They act within the framework of the agreement, within the framework of the decisions that NATO has made and they enjoy the patronage of NATO and the protection of NATO countries.
Israel is not part of the NATO bloc, Israel has won all wars on its own and defended its security, and continues to defend itself without relying on anyone else’s help and will continue to do so.
So in relations with Israel, we need to be more sensitive and the main thing is not to run around telling people what is going on. But if there is an interest in achieving a result, then we need to act differently.
Will the policy towards Ukraine change with the coming to power of one or another candidate?
I can’t predict whether it will change or not, we don’t know how the elections will end, we don’t know which party will come to power, what coalition will be there if a government coalition can be created at all (former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu secured his comeback as his party won a majority of parliamentary seats in the November 1 Israeli elections, the interview was recorded around the time of the elections, – Ed.).
You know that in Israel we have very frequent elections and, unfortunately, it’s not possible to create a stable government that would last for several years.
But I can say with absolute certainty that any government that will be established after the elections will think first and foremost about the security interests of the Israelis, the security interests of both civilians, and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.
And in this sense, there will be no change. For any Israeli government, that is the first and most important thing: ensuring Israel’s security.
So if Israel has red lines, and we do, no government will go beyond those red lines.
Iranian leads to destabilization everywhere
I have also seen these publications. I cannot confirm, I have no such information. I don’t know if this is true or not.
But I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Ukrainian services that ensured the safety of the pilgrims in Uman. It wasn’t easy to do, the situation is difficult, and everyone is busy with the war and yet, everything went relatively smoothly.
According to our data, about 30,000 people came to Uman and also left Ukraine safely. So once again I would like to thank the police and all the other services that ensured the safety of the pilgrims, for their contribution to the fact that everything went so smoothly and quietly.
Why has Israel now become more involved in defense and intelligence (according to Volodymyr Zelenskyy)? It is now that Iran has become involved in the war. What is Iran’s role?[quote]I can only say that we have been concerned about Iran’s behavior for a long time. For decades. And Iran certainly poses a tremendous danger to Israel, to Ukraine, to the world, to the Middle East.[/quote]
We can’t help but be concerned about Iran’s involvement and the alliance, the defense cooperation between Russia and Iran that is evident in Ukraine today. And this issue was also raised in conversations that our Prime Minister had with [Ukraine’s] Foreign Minister Kuleba, in the conversation between the security ministers of our countries.
Of course, we are concerned about that. Iran leads to destabilization not only in Ukraine but also in Israel, in the Middle East, supports terror and that’s a big danger for everyone.
Many people say that Ukrainians should become like Israeli and learn how to live in a country where war is ongoing all the time. How do we learn, how do we adapt, and what is Israel’s defense experience worth adopting for Ukraine in the first place?
This cannot happen in one day. It’s an experience that takes years to accumulate.
[quote]Israel has been in a state of conflict with neighboring countries, in a state of fighting terror for decades since the very first day of Israel’s existence. And this experience should certainly be adopted.[/quote]
By the way, Israel is doing a lot to share this experience with Ukraine. We host dozens of Ukrainian specialists on a variety of issues.
For example, how to prepare the education system and schools for an emergency situation, and how to deal with post-trauma for psychologists, for social workers. And offline courses, when people come to Israel and study online.
Thousands of people have already been trained online and are in touch with Israeli specialists, giving advice, and sharing their experiences. But it’s a long-term process, it has to be done seriously and we are ready to tell and share any information that we have and share our experience.[quote]We do have great experience in ensuring the security of the country and the development of the country, the development of the country’s economy, and technology despite the constant threat of war. This topic is very relevant for Ukraine today. I am sure that with the right approach this experience can be applied to Ukraine. [/quote]
No country has been successful in mediating between Ukraine and Russia
At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Israel positioned itself more as a mediator. Why did Israel cease remaining neutral? Were there any violations of Russia’s agreements with Israel? Why is support for Ukraine increasing?
I don’t think we know all the details of what was there in those negotiations that took place involving Israel. I don’t know when we’ll find out. But I don’t think any country today has been successful in mediating between Ukraine and Russia.
Many countries and individuals have tried to be mediators. Unfortunately, so far all these efforts have not achieved such a result.
And once again I want to go back to where I started this interview: Israel is not a neutral state. Israel supports Ukraine within the red lines that have existed since the first day of the war. So we have to stop calling Israel a neutral state. Clearly, Israel is on the side of Ukraine and is giving tremendous support to Ukraine.
Since no country has managed to take the role of mediator and negotiate with Russia, is it possible to say that it is impossible to negotiate with Russia?
I don’t know, I can’t say that, but you know better. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to negotiate or somehow try to end this war. This is your decision.
What Israel has to offer is our influence and Jerusalem, which at one time was discussed as a possible venue for a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy. If there is a desire of all involved parties to meet in Jerusalem, I think Israel would gladly host such a meeting.
Jerusalem is an important city for everybody and I think that such a meeting could take place in Jerusalem.
Are there such talks about a meeting in Jerusalem?
I’m not aware of any active negotiations.
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- Western sanctions cause “huge problems” for Russia’s war sector (but Israel probably still supplies drone parts) – military expert (2021)
- Israel and Ukraine will always be friends, Israeli Ambassador says (2021)
- “Your heroes are our nightmare”: Israeli Ambassador on Ukraine relations and Holodomor recognition (2021)
- Diplomatic tightrope and historical memory: Ukraine-Israel foreign policy audit (2017)
- Russian-owned Israeli UAV downed in Ukraine (2015)
- Unusual Israeli-Russian rapprochement (2014)