Israel Turns toward Ukraine

Israel has been repeatedly condemned for supposedly being too neutral toward Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. But as Michael Oren argues, whatever scant evidence such criticism rested on has vanished. While asserting that Israel could do still more to help the beleaguered country, Oren lists the ways in which Jerusalem has “taken a principled stand.” (Subscription required.)

Israel supported a [United Nations] General Assembly resolution denouncing Russia’s aggression. More recently, the Jewish state has called for Russia’s ouster from the UN Human Rights Council. Explaining the vote, the Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid stated that “intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it.” Moscow’s Foreign Ministry responded with a blistering censure of his “anti-Russian attack.”

On the humanitarian front, Israel has been anything but dispassionate. In addition to shipping 100 tons of medical equipment, clothing, food, and other supplies to displaced Ukrainians, Israel set up the first foreign field hospital operating inside Ukrainian territory. A special unit in the Foreign Ministry is coordinating the transfer of individual and corporate donations to Israeli and international aid organizations assisting Ukrainian refugees.

These are hardly the actions of a neutral state. Though some observers would prefer Israel took an even firmer stance, they should consider how much easier it would have been for the Jewish state to remain entirely neutral. Among many incentives not to upset Moscow is the large Russian-speaking population in Israel and its need to maintain ties with their families back in Russia. There’s also Israel’s responsibility to the hundreds of institutions—daycare centers, senior-citizen facilities, schools—that serve Russia’s approximately 600,000 Jews. Such ties could be jeopardized by an anti-Putin position.

So, too, might the Israeli military’s ability to strike targets in Syria, which Iran is trying to transform into an offensive front against Israel. Doing so requires Israel to coordinate its actions with the thousands of Russian troops stationed in Syria. If Russia were to refuse to do this, it could cost Israeli lives.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Humanitarian aid, War in Ukraine, Yair Lapid


How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy