Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday amid anger in Kyiv over Israel’s refusal to supply arms to Ukraine as it battles Russia’s invasion.
In the call, Lapid expressed “deep concern about the military ties between Iran and Russia,” his office said, after Moscow allegedly used Iran-made drones to attack Ukraine. Separately, in a TV interview, Lapid warned that Russian-Iranian arms ties put “the whole world in danger.”
After the phone discussion, Lapid tweeted that Kuleba updated him on the war, while the prime minister said he “shared with him [Kuleba] our deep concern about the military ties between Iran and Russia,” affirming that “Israel stands with the Ukrainian people.”
However, Lapid made no mention of Ukraine’s formal request that Israel supply Ukraine with air defense systems in the wake of the barrage of Russian strikes in recent days, many believed carried out with Iranian-supplied drones.
In recent days, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has repeatedly reiterated that Israel will not send weapons systems to Ukraine. A call planned between Gantz and his Ukrainian counterpart Thursday was postponed.
On Wednesday, Gantz declared that while Israel will continue its support for Ukraine over the invasion, “it will not deliver weapon systems to Ukraine, due to a variety of operational considerations.
However, he said Jerusalem could supply an early-warning system to the beleaguered nation to warn of incoming strikes, like the one used in Israel.
On Monday, Dmitri Medvedev, the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, warned Israel in a social media post that any “reckless” supply of military equipment to Ukraine “will destroy all interstate relations between our countries.”
Also Thursday, Lapid spoke to a Russian opposition TV channel, using the platform to warn against the burgeoning relationship between Iran and Russia.
“We naturally think that relations between Russia and Iran are a serious problem not only for Israel, but also for Ukraine, Europe and the whole world,” he told the independent Russian-language TV network RTVi, which also broadcasts in Israel.
“Iran is a dangerous terrorist state, and the fact that Russia does business with it puts the whole world in danger,” he said.
Lapid labeled Tehran’s decision to provide a fleet of drones to Moscow “absolutely unacceptable,” but insisted that Israel would remain steadfast in its policy not to provide any direct military aid to Kyiv due to its complex relationship with Russia which has a large military presence on Israel’s northern border in Syria.
“Israel’s international relations are a complex issue,” said Lapid. “I have an obligation to take care of both Israel’s security and our national security, to see to it that our interests are respected, and, in doing so, to make it clear that we support Ukraine in [this conflict].”
Since the outbreak of hostilities in February, Israel has sought to maintain a policy of neutrality regarding Russia and Ukraine — throwing its moral support behind Ukraine, just as many Western states have done, whilst not going so far as to provoke Moscow.
However, the introduction of Iranian-supplied drones to the battlefield in Ukraine has complicated Israel’s position, with pressure mounting on Jerusalem to take action against growing Iranian influence in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It isn’t only Jerusalem projecting concern over Moscow’s deployment of Iranian drones: The EU on Thursday passed sanctions against an entity and three Iranian military generals connected to the drone program.
Iran denies that it is supplying any military equipment to the Russian military.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report