Lavrov appears to liken Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

FM praises Netanyahu since ‘he never dared’ to criticize Russia, says Israel’s campaign against Hamas ‘sounds like denazification,’ echoing Moscow’s justification for its war

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, December 27, 2023. (Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP)
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, December 27, 2023. (Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared on Thursday to offer some limited praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while appearing to compare Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with the state-owned Russia-24 news channel, Lavrov indicated that Moscow is pleased Netanyahu has not vocally criticized Russia for its ongoing war against Ukraine.

“Despite condemnations from around the world, including of course Israel, he finds himself in quite a serious situation, that he never dared to make any statements against Russia,” Lavrov said.

Former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid were publicly critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Netanyahu has kept more of a careful tone, though Israel has offered its backing for Kyiv and sent repeated shipments of humanitarian and medical aid as well as field hospitals to Ukraine since the start of the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has been largely critical of Israel since the start of the war in Gaza, while Moscow has hosted Hamas officials and led international calls for Israel to halt fighting. In a Putin-Netanyahu phone call earlier this month, the Israeli leader criticized Russia’s “anti-Israel stances” in global bodies as well as its “dangerous cooperation” with Iran.

In the Thursday interview, however, Lavrov sought to draw comparisons between Israel’s fight against Hamas and Russia’s war on Ukraine, despite Putin’s sharp criticism of the IDF operation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and PM Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, July 23,2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

“By the way, Netanyahu said he wants to destroy Hamas; that sounds like demilitarization. And he said extremism in the Strip must be eliminated. Sounds like denazification,” Lavrov said according to a live translation, referencing the two goals of Russia’s so-called “special operation” in Ukraine.

The Russian foreign minister, who in the past has gotten into hot water by claiming Hitler had Jewish blood and accusing Israel of supporting neo-Nazis, said that Russian-Israeli ties are founded on the ideal of fighting Nazis.

“It’s the main thing that unites us historically, the basis of our genetic code, if you will,” he said.

Moscow has repeatedly sought to justify its 2022 invasion of Ukraine by claiming that it is working to counter neo-Nazi forces in the country, something largely dismissed by most Western nations.

Putin apologized in 2022 for Lavrov saying Hitler had Jewish blood.

The Hamas attack on October 7 killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, as thousands of Hamas terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, slaughtering families in their homes and communities and participants in an outdoor music festival, and abducting at least 240 people into Gaza.

Israel responded to the attack with a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas, removing it from power in Gaza, and freeing the hostages. More than 20,000 people in Gaza have been killed so far, in an unverified figure provided by Hamas which includes terror operatives; Israel says it has killed more than 8,000 Hamas operatives so far.

Around 130 hostages remain in Gaza. Close to 170 IDF troops have been killed in the ground operation in the Strip.

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