Israel torpedoed sale of Iron Dome to Ukraine, fearing Russian reaction — report

Kyiv approached US officials last year in bid to buy system, but Israel reportedly vetoed the idea

An Iron Dome anti-rocket battery seen in the city of Haifa, on August 30, 2013. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
An Iron Dome anti-rocket battery seen in the city of Haifa, on August 30, 2013. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Israel halted an attempt by the US to transfer several batteries of the Iron Dome defense system to Ukraine over worries it would damage its relations with Russia, the Ynet news site reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the defense system’s capabilities — especially during the 2021 Gaza war — piqued the interest of Ukrainian officials.

The country’s representatives began working vigorously in Washington last year to persuade US lawmakers to initiate a transfer of the rocket and mortar defense system to them.

The Ukrainian government officially asked the Biden administration to transfer Patriot and Iron Dome missiles to Ukraine last spring.

At the time, when then there were no worries of a possible Russian invasion, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers supported the transfer.

However, due to Iron Dome being a joint Israeli-American project, a sale to a third party cannot take place without the approval of both developer countries.

Illustrative: US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office of the White House, September 1, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

According to the report, Israeli officials made it clear to the US administration in informal talks that it wouldn’t agree to the transfer of Iron Dome batteries to Kyiv, fearing it would hurt its relations with Russia, especially in light of Moscow’s influence over Syria.

The Ukrainians, in turn, have in recent months made direct requests to the Israeli government and asked for officials to approve the sale.

Convinced by Israel’s arguments, the US dropped the transfer of both Iron Dome and Patriot missiles.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said last Wednesday that his country was seeking greater cooperation with Israel on air defense technology amid fears of a Russian invasion. An Israel TV report specified that Ukraine has been in contact with Israel regarding the Iron Dome missile defense system, other missile warning technologies, and cyber defense technology.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks in Copenhagen, Denmark, on January 27, 2022. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

During a press conference, Kuleba said there was “very deep cooperation… under the current circumstances” between Kyiv and Jerusalem, without elaborating.

“We are also interested in deepened defense cooperation on defense technology, in particular related to air defense,” he told a reporter from the Kan public broadcaster.

He added, “we would welcome the effort of Israel to play a diplomatic role between Ukraine and Russia,” apparently owing to the Jewish state’s close ties with both nations.

Kan quoted a Ukrainian source as saying Ukraine has discussed the Iron Dome system “several times” with Israel, as well as other missile defense and cyber defense systems and technologies.

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