Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Israel to forsake its neutrality after Russia’s incursion on Sunday, saying the moment had come for the Jewish state to firmly defend its nation.
The statement was made by Zelensky, who is Jewish, during a video conference presentation to Israeli parliamentarians, the latest in a series of video conference lectures to foreign legislatures.
“Ukraine took the option to preserve Jews 80 years ago,” Zelensky said in statements that at times equated Russian aggression to the Holocaust.
“Now it’s up to Israel to make a decision.”
Since Russia’s incursion on February 24, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has walked a fine diplomatic line.
Bennett has attempted to maintain sensitive security cooperation with Russia, which has soldiers in Syria, across Israel’s northern border, by emphasizing Israel’s close links to Moscow and Kyiv.
Bennett has kept in touch with Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin on a regular basis, including a three-hour meeting with Putin on March 5 in the Kremlin.
While Ukrainian officials have expressed gratitude for Bennett’s mediation, Zelensky hinted on Sunday that his efforts had been a failure.
“We can negotiate between states, but not between good and evil,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko remarked.
– “Nazi terminologies” –
Zelensky, whose family was affected by the Holocaust, stated that the Kremlin used “Nazi vocabulary” to describe its goals in Ukraine.
“The Nazis discussed a ‘Final Solution to the Jewish problem,” he claimed. “Right now, Moscow is discussing a final settlement for Ukraine.”
Some Israeli officials, notably Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel of the right-wing New Hope party, were quick to criticize his analogy.
“We cannot whitewash the Holocaust’s history, a genocide that took place on Ukrainian territory as well. This fight is tragic, but comparing it to the Holocaust and the Final Solution is ridiculous “Hendel took to Twitter to express his support for Ukrainians.
Zelensky has stated that he was not reared religiously and that his Judaism was not a focus of his presidential campaign.
However, he has increasingly used his faith to galvanize Jewish and Israeli support for Ukraine, notably through Hebrew-language social media posts.
Although Israel has not joined Western sanctions on Russia, certain members of its coalition government have taken a more aggressive stance than Bennett.
– ‘Ashamed’ –
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is one of them, having consistently decried Russia’s conduct.
After the address, Lapid remarked, “I renew my condemnation of the aggression on Ukraine and appreciate President Zelensky for sharing his thoughts and the misery of the Ukrainian people.”
Zelensky also made an appearance at downtown Tel Aviv’s Habima Square, which has seen multiple recent anti-Russia rallies.
Tel Aviv’s left-wing Mayor Ron Huldai declared before the speech that Israeli neutrality was no longer tenable.
“Putting political considerations aside, we are watching an occurrence in which it is evident who is the aggressor and who is the assailant; who is the aggressor and who is the assailant,” Huldai stated.
“There are times when one simply cannot remain silent; and tonight, right now, is one of those times.”
Victor Vertsner, 45, of Ukraine, was watching the speech in Habima Square and said he was “ashamed” by Israel’s response.
“We’re doing too little and at the wrong time. More has to be done. As Jews who lived through and survived the Holocaust, we don’t have the right to stand by and watch “According to AFP, he said.
Over one million of Israel’s 9.4 million people are descendants of the Soviet Union.
Israel has helped Ukraine with humanitarian aid but has so far turned down Kyiv’s pleas for military assistance.