Israel refused to let a Russian missile ship dock in Haifa’s naval base because of fears it would appear to be siding with Moscow over the Ukraine crisis — and because of the possibility that the Russian visitors would attempt some espionage on the side.
The mid-April incident was handled by National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen in consultation with the IDF, the Shin Bet internal security service, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the Foreign Ministry, the Haaretz daily reported on Wednesday.
An unnamed government source said that authorities were unanimous in turning down a request from Moscow to allow the ship to anchor in the Israeli port. Officials feared that the sight of a Russian naval vessel docked in Israel would be perceived as backing Russia in its activities in Ukraine, thus irking Washington.
The US was already disappointed in Israel for not backing a United Nations condemnation of Russia’s involvement in Crimea that was put to the vote two and half months ago, the official explained.
During a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the ship was denied entry because Israel wants to maintain good ties with the US, Russia, and Ukraine.
Haaretz reported that the Shin Bet objected to the Russian ship because it might be used to spy on Israel. The concerns were fueled by suspicions that a Russian naval ship that docked in Israel last year was also attempting espionage. That ship came to Israel during celebrations to mark 68 years since Victory Day, when Russia marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian government and the West have accused Russia of trying to destabilize Ukraine or create a pretext for another invasion. Russia — which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula just days after voters there approved secession in a March referendum — has rejected the accusations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.