From the New York Times news section:
Israel is a strong ally of the United States
Or, perhaps to be precise, vice-versa.
, and its leaders have a good relationship with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s Jewish president. But Israel also doesn’t want to provoke Russia.
By Patrick Kingsley, Isabel Kershner and Ronen Bergman
Published Feb. 27, 2022
TEL AVIV — On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, did not mention Russia once. Mr. Bennett said he prayed for peace, called for dialogue and promised support for Ukrainian citizens. But he did not hint at Moscow’s involvement, much less condemn it — and it was left, as preplanned, to Mr. Bennett’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, to criticize Moscow in a separate statement that day.
The pair’s cautious double act embodied the bind, in which the war in Ukraine has placed Israel.
Israel is a key partner of the United States, and many Israelis appreciate longstanding cultural connections with Ukraine, which, for several months in 2019, was the only country other than their own with both a Jewish president — Volodymyr Zelensky — and a Jewish prime minister. But Russia is a critical actor in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Israel’s northeastern neighbor and enemy, and the Israeli government believes it cannot risk losing Moscow’s favor.
For much of the past decade, the Israeli Air Force has struck Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese military targets in Syria without interference, trying to stem the flow of arms that Iran sends to its proxies in both Syria and Lebanon and to limit a military buildup on its northern border.
Israel also wants to leave itself enough room to act as a go-between in the conflict. …
Israel, which often asks that its allies to support it unconditionally, finds itself in the uncomfortable position of appearing to refuse to publicly criticize Russia, even when other countries with seemingly more at stake have condemned Mr. Putin’s war. …
And Israeli officials must simultaneously consider the responses of Israel’s large Russian-speaking population, who form about 12 percent of its electorate. Roughly 1.2 million Russian speakers have arrived in Israel from the former Soviet Union over the past three decades, about a third of them from Russia and about the same from Ukraine, according to government data. …
Conscious of the need to placate Russia, Israel has rejected several requests in recent months to send military and intelligence equipment to Ukraine, three Israeli officials and a Ukrainian official said. The most recent request was rejected by Mr. Bennett during the call on Friday, the Ukrainian official said.
Even after approving the sale of Pegasus, an Israeli-made spyware program, to dozens of other countries, Israel refused to sell it to Ukraine — rejecting a request last August from a Ukrainian delegation that visited Israel to discuss spyware purchases, according to an Israeli official and two people familiar with the matter. And Ukraine never formally asked Israel to use its fabled air defense system, known as Iron Dome, precisely because it knew that Israel would never agree to supply it, the Ukrainian official said. …
On Thursday, as Russia began its invasion, the Russian-born owners of the Putin Pub, a bar popular with Russian-speaking Israelis in Jerusalem, removed the golden “P-U-T-I-N” letters from its facade and announced that they were seeking a new name for their bar.
Of course, there are other reasons why Israel is not rushing to condemn Russia for trying to conquer neighboring land.
Eight years ago, I wrote in Taki’s Magazine:
For some time now, I had been concerned that the growing urge of American elites toward bear-baiting — what I call World War G for its bizarre premise of resurrecting the Cold War over, of all things, gay marriage — was a bad habit.
But as it turned out in Kiev, a street battle attracts a different demographic than does a gay pride parade. The triumph of brave far-right brawlers in Ukraine horrified the Russians into acting like Russians.
Russia has long been a baleful state, the biggest, toughest flatheads out on the Eurasian plain. You always hear about two times Russia was attacked — by Napoleon in 1812 and by Hitler in 1941 — but Russia didn’t get that big through diplomacy.
In late czarist times, the Foreign Office commemorated a royal anniversary by commissioning a research project in the archives. In its ceremonial memorandum to the czar, the foreign minister announced that they had reviewed the last 40 wars the state had fought and were proud to declare that Russia had started 38 of them.
Unfortunately, I don’t recall where I read this. So, now, like with my anecdote about the English lord explaining how his ancestors got into the House of Lords — “With the battle-axe, sir, with the battle-axe!” — I’m now the world’s leading source in case you need a footnote.
This is not to say that Russia is endlessly aggressive, but that it traditionally feels that its vulnerabilities demand its expansiveness. The Crimean peninsula, for example, is one of the rare places with any natural defenses in Eastern Europe, which helped Sevastopol hold out against the Nazi army until July 4, 1942, over a year after the German invasion began. Whether strategically outdated or not, in Russian thinking Crimea looms as a natural fortress threatening the right flank of any hypothetical NATO invasion of Russia through Ukraine.
I certainly don’t know what’s going to happen next in Eastern Europe, but I’d like to sketch out a scenario that is, while admittedly implausible, even less often contemplated.
Russia increasingly resembles another country with similar paranoiac geopolitical attitudes and a culture that is yearly becoming less Northwest European: Israel. A rapprochement between Russia and Israeli nationalists remains unlikely, but the chances are growing.
Read the whole thing there.