Kyiv says it is frustrated with pace of delivery on Israeli promises

Ukraine insists it still has not been told how to access $200 million loan guarantee; Israeli diplomats say Monday meeting was friendly, projects moving ahead

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (left) and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba speak during a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 16, 2023. (Gleb Garanich/Pool/AFP)
File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba speak during a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 16, 2023. (Gleb Garanich/Pool/AFP)

Kyiv is growing frustrated over Israel’s failure to deliver on promises of aid it made in recent weeks, according to Ukrainian officials.

Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky met in Kyiv Monday with Maksym Subkh, Ukraine’s special envoy to the Middle East, for a political consultation that was initially portrayed as a Ukrainian reprimand in Israeli media.

“It was a discussion of fulfilling initial agreements,” a Ukrainian official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

A central issue in the meeting was the $200 million in loan guarantees for healthcare and civilian infrastructure pledged by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Kyiv last month.

“He could not explain how we can use it,” said the Ukrainian official.

Kyiv also pressed Brodsky on Israel allowing more wounded Ukrainian soldiers into the country for treatment. “There was no answer,” lamented the Ukrainian official.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, holds the flag of a military unit as an officer kisses it, during a commemorative event marking the Russia-Ukraine war’s one-year anniversary in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Subkh sought answers on Israeli help on civilian de-mining, but was frustrated by the lack of clarity there as well.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thus far continued his predecessors’ policy of refusing to offer Ukraine defensive weapons to counter Russian attacks, though he is shifting Israel slightly in Kyiv’s direction. Cohen’s visit was one such indication of the move.

During his February visit, Cohen also announced that Israel would “assist Ukraine with developing a smart early warning system.” The airstrike warning system would be similar to the technology Israel uses to warn civilians of rocket attacks.

Israeli officials presented a very different picture than did their Ukrainian counterparts, insisting that the aid Cohen committed to is moving forward.

“It is being worked on,” a Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel. “The projects are in the pipeline, but they take time.”

Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky. (Israeli Embassy in Ukraine)

Israel rejected the reports on Monday about Brodsky being summoned for a reprimand.

“It’s simply not true,” said an Israeli official. “It was a normal follow-up meeting.”

The official also denied reports in Ukrainian media that Kyiv expressed its displeasure over Israel not recognizing the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group as a terrorist organization, despite Jerusalem asking Ukraine to list the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as such.

“Wagner wasn’t raised,” insisted the Israeli official.

File: Visitors wearing military camouflage stand at the entrance of the ‘PMC Wagner Center,’ which is associated with businessman and founder of the Wagner private military group Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block on National Unity Day in St. Petersburg, Russia, November 4, 2022. (AP Photo, File)

Instead, the Ukrainians wanted to understand the mechanism through which they can access the loan assurance, and wanted updates on the civilian missile early warning system, according to the Israeli version of the meeting.

“It takes time to adapt it to Ukraine’s needs,” said the Israeli official, emphasizing that it would not be ready to be deployed for at least “a couple more months.”

A Ukrainian team is in Poland to work on the system with Israeli defense officials.

File: Police experts examine remains of a downed missile that fell on vehicles parked at a multi-story residential building in Kyiv on December 29, 2022, during Russian missiles strike on Ukraine (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

The system needs to be adapted to warn of incoming Russian ballistic missiles, whereas in Israel it is used to alert citizens primarily to short-range rockets.

Israel is still working with Ukraine to understand its priorities in terms of humanitarian aid, said the official.

Though Israel still does not have a state budget, it approved a special budget in January for humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

A Ukrainian official acknowledged that the tone of the meeting with Brodsky was friendly, but that does not mean Kyiv is satisfied. “You can yell or you can speak nicely, but that doesn’t change the facts.”

“Unfortunately we are in a war,” the official continued, “and our wartime diplomacy is slightly different than our peacetime one.”

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