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Lapid: Israel to back UN resolution condemning Russia, be ‘on right side of history’

Foreign minister says Israel has ‘moral duty, historical obligation’ to be part of diplomatic, humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, and vows to ‘leave no Israeli or Jew behind’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)

Israel will vote in favor of the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday, days after Jerusalem refused to co-sponsor a similar measure in the Security Council in a move that disappointed the United States.

Lapid said Israel has a moral responsibility to both condemn Russia for its actions and provide humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainians.

Noting that the UN would vote on “a resolution to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Lapid said, “Israel will join and vote in favor, along with the overwhelming majority of nations.”

“Israel was and will be on the right side of history,” Lapid said in a statement. “We have a moral duty and historical obligation to be part of the effort.”

The General Assembly resolution is almost certain to pass the 193-member body, since individual countries don’t have the power to scuttle such measures on their own.

In an apparent reference to the disagreement over the earlier resolution, Lapid said the US is Israel’s main ally and understands Jerusalem’s need to be “careful and discretionary” in its delicate relations with Moscow, due to the presence of Russian forces in Syria that coordinate with Israel, as well as the large number of Jews in Ukraine.

“Russia is the most significant military force in Syria, and our mechanism of cooperation with them is aiding our determined struggle against the establishment of an Iranian [presence] on our northern border,” Lapid said.

Ukrainian refugees arrive from their homeland at Zahonyi railway station close to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border on February 27, 2022 (Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

Lapid said that while approximately 4,000 Israelis have already left Ukraine, there are still thousands of Israelis there and around 180,000 people who are entitled to Israeli citizenship if they choose.

“Ukraine is a difficult battle zone, but we are committed to a sacred principle — we will do everything not to leave any Israeli behind, any Jew behind. This is the reason the Jewish state exists. This is our commitment,” he said.

Lapid also detailed the airlifts of humanitarian aid that are set to leave Israel for Ukraine on Monday and Tuesday, transporting thousands of coats, blankets, sleeping bags, medical equipment, tents and water purification equipment.

Israel is one of the few countries that maintains warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and with Russia.

An armored vehicle outside Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine, February 27, 2022. (AP Photo)

Ahead of the Security Council vote on Friday, the US mission reached out to dozens of countries, asking them to back the resolution, a Western diplomat said. Non-Security Council members were still able to co-sponsor the resolution, even though they could not vote on it.

The Israeli mission referred the matter back to Jerusalem for guidance, where a decision was reached shortly before the vote to avoid joining such a strong gesture against Russia, an official told The Times of Israel.

Another Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Sunday that the decision not to co-sponsor that resolution in the Security Council was partially due to the certainty that Russia, which holds veto power, would quash the measure anyway.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed an Axios report that the US expressed its disappointment to Israel after Jerusalem refused to co-sponsor the vote.

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