Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky phoned Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Wednesday to congratulate him on the formation of the new Israeli government.
It was one of the first calls Bennett had received from a foreign leader since taking office on Sunday. US President Joe Biden was the first to call, hours after Sunday’s swearing-in ceremony.
Zelensky invited Bennett to visit Ukraine for the opening of the Babi Yar memorial in September, commemorating the massacre of more than 30,000 Jews by Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust, according to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Bennett also invited Zelensky, who is Jewish, to visit Jerusalem for the opening of the Ukrainian Innovation Center that Kyiv plans to establish in Israel’s capital as the countries continue to improve ties.
“The leaders agreed to increase bilateral cooperation, with an emphasis on technology,” the PMO said.
Israel has close ties with Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews moved to Israel as part of the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.
However, Israel has sought to play a delicate balancing act in improving ties with Ukraine without jeopardizing relations with Moscow, which is embroiled in a long-running dispute with Kyiv.
Ties were strained last year when thousands of Jewish pilgrims tried to get to Uman in Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, despite a coronavirus travel ban imposed by Ukraine, ending with a tense standoff between the pilgrims and Ukrainian guards on the borders with Belarus and Moldova.
Israel has also criticized Ukraine for efforts by some groups to glorify Ukrainian nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II.