Placing Israel’s Position on Ukraine in Context

Israel’s recent decision not to co-sponsor a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was met with fierce criticism. Despite its unwillingness to sign the resolution, though, Israel has sent substantial humanitarian aid to Ukraine and has denounced Russia’s actions in the UN General Assembly. Natan Sharansky traces the factors that led Israel to attempt to “hew a cautious path” between Ukraine and Russia, arguing that former president Barack Obama’s “lack of moral clarity . . . forced Israel to become [overly] dependent on Mr. Putin.”

How did this happen? The first major development was President Obama’s disastrous response to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. In 2012 Mr. Obama declared chemical weapons to be a “red line” in the Syrian conflict, the factor that would lead him to use military force against Mr. Assad. In 2013 reports surfaced of a devastating chemical-weapons attack in the rebel-controlled suburbs of Damascus. Hundreds of civilians were killed. Yet the Obama administration delayed action and the momentum for a military intervention faded, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Putin saw the U.S. retreat in Syria as a sign of weakness and exploited the opportunity to advance his project of renewing Russia’s great-power status. In 2014 he invaded Crimea. In 2015 he established a military base in Khmeimim, Syria, and began air strikes to support Mr. Assad’s forces there. Both maneuvers provided him with an opportunity to test his military strength. His presence in Syria further ensured that the keys to Syrian airspace would remain in his hands.

The next development in the U.S. abdication of moral leadership was the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement neglected to demand that Iran respect human rights and end its support for global terrorism in exchange for billions of dollars in cash. A significant portion of these funds went to Hizballah, which in turn managed to transform itself from a partisan group into an army, building bases in Syria and continuing its operations there and in Lebanon.

Israel had no choice but to reach a strategic agreement with Russia to fight against Iran and its proxies. In protecting itself from terrorist aggression, Israel must consider Russia’s presence in Syria and secure Mr. Putin’s agreement for airstrikes against targets there. This arrangement, which began under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, renders Israel dependent on Russia’s goodwill even now, during Mr. Putin’s worst aggressions to date.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Barack Obama, Israel diplomacy, Syrian civil war, War in Ukraine

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security