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


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