February 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Sends First Senior Official to Kyiv Since 2022 Invasion

February 16, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Sends First Senior Official to Kyiv Since 2022 Invasion

Latest Developments

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Thursday, the first to the Ukrainian capital by Israel’s top diplomat since the Russian invasion almost a year ago. After a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, Cohen said that an Israeli initiative to help Ukraine refine its civilian early-warning system, announced last year, would proceed; that Israel would support at the United Nations next week a General Assembly resolution, based on a Ukrainian peace initiative, calling for a cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of Russian forces; and that Israel would pledge up to $200 million worth of new Israeli support for Ukraine’s health services and civilian infrastructure.

During his visit, Cohen officiated at the reopening of the Israeli embassy in Kyiv and paid respects at Bucha, a town ravaged by the Russians, and at the Holocaust memorial of Babyn Yar. The only other cabinet minister to have visited since the invasion was Nitzan Horowitz, the health minister under the previous government. Cohen is due to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Expert Analysis

“Ukraine should see hosting Israel’s top diplomat as an opportunity to review its own diplomacy on Israel. Kyiv has voted against Israel in United Nations resolutions 105 times, or 79 percent of total anti-Israel resolutions, since 2015. Ukraine and Israel share common threats and interests: Almost one in 10 fatalities from Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel over the past year have been Ukrainian, and both countries face similar threats from Iranian killer drones. Ukraine needs to voice an unabashed pro-Israel policy as well as an understanding of Israel’s strategic limitations when it comes to policymaking on the war.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Israel’s support for Ukraine’s early warning capabilities will save countless civilian lives and improve Kyiv’s defense against Russian aggression. This is a smart way for Israel to help Ukraine without giving up Iron Dome batteries that are critically needed for ongoing missile threats on Israel’s northern and southern borders.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Israel Maintains Consistent Ukraine Policy

While noting Israel’s public solidarity with Ukraine and provision of humanitarian relief during the war, Cohen gave no indication that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would supply Kyiv with the missile interceptors it seeks to fend off Russian attacks. Since taking office in December, Netanyahu has pledged to review Israeli policy on the Ukraine crisis. But he appears likely to hew to the previous government’s refusal to equip Kyiv with military systems — a precaution against angering Russia, whose Syria-based garrison Israel wants to avoid as it strikes Iranian assets in the country.

Israel Retains Limited Military Supplies

In a February 2 interview on France’s TF1 Pro, Netanyahu played down any prospect that Ukraine might get Iron Dome interceptors from Israel, saying, “In my opinion we don’t have enough to cover ourselves — just barely.” He even sounded rueful about the U.S. decision to relocate ordnance prepositioned in Israel to Ukraine, saying, “That’s a pretty big drawdown on our emergency supplies.”

Related Analysis

Further Evidence Emerges of Iran’s Support for Russia’s War in Ukraine,” FDD Flash Brief

Ukraine should back Israel for fighting Iran-backed Palestinian terror,” by Mark Dubowitz

What’s Behind Israel’s Reluctance to Share Iron Dome With Ukraine?” by Bradley Bowman


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