Despite Israeli ambiguity, ex-Ukraine PM thanks it for ‘formally declaring’ support
Yulia Tymoshenko lauds PM Bennett for mediation efforts between Kyiv and Moscow; adds that despite hopes for ceasefire, Ukrainians will not lay down their weapons
Ukraine’s former prime minister on Tuesday thanked Israel for its mediation efforts between Ukraine and Russia, as well as its “formal declaration” of support for Kyiv.
Jerusalem has not made such a formal declaration. Israeli leaders have expressed support for Ukraine and its people, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has condemned Moscow’s invasion, but Israel has also been careful not to censure Russia to strongly, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has kept his own comments ambiguous, to some criticism.
Tymoshenko appeared to be referring to comments made Monday by Lapid, who said Israel “condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and calls for an end to the fighting” and pledged that Israel would not become a channel for Russia and its oligarchs to bypass sanctions.
“We thank your country and your prime minister… for putting yourselves forward as peacemakers,” Yulia Tymoshenko said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13.
“I very much want to believe in this. But at the same time, I am certain that [Russia’s President] Putin will not stop. He will go on to the end. He wants to win, and take military control of Ukraine, but I can tell you that he won’t achieve this. Ukraine will fight so that victory is ours,” Tymoshenko said. “I thank Israel for formally declaring today that it stands with Ukraine.
Lapid said that “There is no justification for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and there is no justification for attacks on a civilian population. Israel will not be a route to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries.”
Bennett, who has assumed the role of mediator between Russia and Ukraine, has refrained from taking sides in the conflict.
Israel has not joined the crushing Western sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, and officials told The Times of Israel on Tuesday it does not intend to, but it is working to close “loopholes” to ensure it is not used to bypass the West.
Tymoshenko said, “Today is really a turning point. Today your foreign minister said clearly that Israel will not be a country that allows the aggressor state to evade the sanctions. Nobody can stand in opposition [to Ukraine’s cause]. You’d have to be without a conscience, heartless and soulless, and devoid of any human emotion, to see what is happening in Ukraine and not to stand with it.”
Commenting on Kyiv’s resolve to fight the Russian invasion, Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s only former female prime minister, quoted Israel’s only female prime minister, Ukraine-born Golda Meir.
“Regarding negotiations, I want to quote Golda Meir, who was your prime minister and was born in Kyiv: ‘If the enemy lays down his weapons, there will be peace. If we lay down our weapons, there’ll be war,'” she said.
“We will not lay down our weapons. We will continue to fight. We’ll continue to defend our country. And if peace talks can contribute, and stop the bloodshed, we will rejoice. But we will not permit any limitations and any compromises that threaten our independence and territorial integrity.”
“I thank you very much [in Israel] for defending Ukraine,” she said.
Tymoshenko currently serves as a people’s deputy of Ukraine. She had extensive dealings with Putin while she was prime minister in 2005 and 2007-2010.
Details of Israel’s mediation efforts have remained obscure. Saturday saw a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deny a report that Israel had pushed the Ukrainian leader to accept an offer from Putin that would see Ukraine make significant concessions to end Russia’s invasion.
Israeli officials have indicated that Jerusalem has not taken a position, nor has it brought forward a proposal for a ceasefire. Rather, they assert that Bennett’s role has been to clarify the two sides’ positions to each other and to other global players, thanks to Israel’s good relations with both nations.
Ukraine has repeatedly pushed Israel for more support since Russia launched its invasion on February 24. But Israel has been seeking to avoid antagonizing Russia, which has a strong presence in Syria, where Israel carries out military action against Iran-linked groups.
There have been numerous apparent ups and downs in Kyiv’s relations with Jerusalem in recent days, with Ukraine at times lauding Israel’s diplomatic and humanitarian efforts and at other times strongly criticizing its reluctance to help more than it had done.