Lapid, Blinken discuss 'global consequences' of invasion

Israeli leaders discuss Russian invasion implications, prepare to help Ukraine Jews

At meeting led by Prime Minister Bennett, ministries ordered to continue working to get Israeli citizens out of conflict zone

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Top Israeli officials met on Thursday to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, deciding to persist in their efforts to get Israeli citizens out of the area while preparing to send aid to Kyiv.

The meeting was led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and attended by Defense Minister Benny Gantz; Foreign Minister Yair Lapid; the IDF chief of staff; the national security adviser; and other top defense and diplomatic officials.

“During the meeting, they reviewed all of the ramifications of the crisis in different areas (diplomatic, financial and security),” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

The PMO said that after discussing the matter, the political leadership agreed to direct the country’s various ministries to focus on continuing efforts to extract all Israeli citizens from the country; help the local Jewish population in Ukraine; prepare to help them immigrate; prepare to send humanitarian aid; and continue assessing the potential consequences that the invasion will have on Israel.

Earlier in the day, Bennett avoided condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine — or even mentioning Russia by name — in his first remarks since the incursion began.

“The world order as we know it is changing,” he said, speaking at an IDF officer graduation ceremony in southern Israel. “The world is much less stable, and our region too is changing every day.”

Smoke and flame rise near a military building after an apparent Russian strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

“These are difficult, tragic times,” said the prime minister. “Our hearts are with the civilians of eastern Ukraine who were caught up in this situation.”

The remarks were a stark contrast from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s condemnation of Russia only hours before.

Lapid called the invasion “a grave violation of the international order,” in Jerusalem’s harshest and most direct condemnation of Moscow since the crisis in Eastern Europe began.

A man holds a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin with an Adolf Hitler-style moustache during a rally for Ukraine in front of Ukraine’s embassy to Romania in Bucharest February 24, 2022. (Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)

Sources familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that Bennett and Lapid were coordinated in their responses.

Israel had so far been careful in its comments on the conflict and has avoided criticizing Moscow publicly. This is believed to be at least partly due to its need to work with the Russian military presence in neighboring Syria.

(L) Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speeks during a press conference in Jerusalem on November 6, 2021. (R) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, January 5, 2022. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL; Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

Later Thursday evening, Lapid spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to an Israeli readout.

“The two discussed the situation in Ukraine and the global consequences of what was unfolding,” Lapid’s office said.

The foreign minister “expressed concern for the safety of Israelis trying to leave Ukraine and updated the secretary of state on Israel’s efforts to send humanitarian aid” to the country.

“The secretary of state updated the foreign minister on the steps the United States is taking at this stage and the two agreed to continue talking in the coming days,” the Israeli readout concluded.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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