On Sunday night, thousands of Israelis watched the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as he addressed the Knesset over Zoom. Zelensky used the opportunity to call for solidarity among allies, while also sharply challenging Israel to “get off the fence” and provide military resources to Ukraine. He compared Ukraine’s plight to the horrors of Nazi Germany and argued that “the Ukrainian and Jewish communities have always been connected.” Despite Zelensky’s popularity among Israelis, Benny Avni writes, many objected to the speech.
For Israelis the uneasy reference to a dark hour when too many Ukrainians joined in the Nazis’ hunt for Jews may have been a bit much. Mr. Zelensky also mentioned the recent Russian hit in the vicinity of the Babi Yar memorial, the significance of which has been refuted by a prominent Israeli reporter. Yet Mr. Zelensky is widely admired in Israel, and his appeal to Ukrainian-Israeli solidarity was well received, which is why he used it as a prelude for his call for more help than Jerusalem currently gives his country.
“Can you explain why we are still calling on the whole world . . . and asking for help?” he said. “What is that? Indifference? Or mediation without picking a side? Indifference kills.”
Alluding to Prime Minister Bennett’s attempt at compromise between Moscow and Kiev, Mr. Zelensky paraphrased one of Golda Meir’s famous quips: “We would like to live, but our neighbors want us dead. That doesn’t give us much room for compromise.”
Yet Israel’s realities may be a bit more complicated than Mr. Zelensky would like. The Israeli air force depends on cooperation with Russia as it conducts an intensive campaign to keep Iran and Hizballah off Israel’s northern border, in Syria. Russia controls Syria’s air space, and its threat to end communication with Jerusalem could lead to fatal dogfights between Israeli and Russian pilots. Additionally, Moscow has agreed to avoid striking an Israeli team that is about to complete building the largest field hospital inside Ukraine, according to press reports.