With the winds of war again blowing in Europe, David Horovitz recalls two interviews he conducted: one two years ago with the Jewish comedian-turned-Ukrainian-president Volodymyr Zelensky, and one last week with the Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid. Both conversations, for Horovitz, emphasized something essential about Israel’s situation:
My heart goes out to Ukraine’s president today, bracing for a possible Russian invasion, defiant, championing his country’s sovereignty and integrity, massively outgunned, uncertain of the potency of international support. And I note something else he said in our interview, his possibly envious, certainly admiring observation that “there are many countries in the world that can protect themselves, but Israel, such a small country, can not only protect itself, but, facing external threats, can respond.”
Lapid, [meanwhile], has been walking the tightrope between expressing principled opposition to a Russian invasion and ensuring the wellbeing of Israelis and Jews in Ukraine, on one hand, and trying, on the other, not to alienate a Russian president with whom Israel has a complex, critical relationship—both because of Moscow’s Middle East presence and influence, and because of Russia’s significant Jewish community.
“This is very 20th century, one country invading another,” said Lapid of the crisis, initially taking the dispassionate historical view. . . . But soon enough in our conversation, he reflected on the Israeli implications. I put it to him that it seemed like the world was doing nothing to protect a sovereign country.
If we thought the danger of despotic regimes remaking the world map was “very 20th century,” along comes Russia to slap us back to our senses. And if we thought the oft-declared imperative that Israel be able, always, to defend itself, by itself, was mere outdated rhetoric, the vulnerability of Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ukraine, and his admiration for our country, underlines its critical relevance.