In Ukraine, Netanyahu refuses to condemn Russian annexation of Crimea

KYIV, Ukraine — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to condemn Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea or to explicitly back Ukraine’s claim to the peninsula.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Israel for its “continued support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and for an unwavering stand on the war in the east of our country and the annexation of Crimea.

But, in fact, official Israel never formally expressed support for Kyiv’s position on its ongoing conflict with Russia, but stayed neutral. In 2014, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a toothless statement expressing the hope that the matter “will be handled through diplomatic means and will be resolved peacefully.”

Israel in March 2014 also abstained on a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Ukraine’s “partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.”

The US-sponsored resolution passed with 100-11, with 58 abstentions.

“I have nothing to add to what was done at the time,” Netanyahu says at a briefing for reporters in his Kyiv hotel, responding to a question posed by The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu also refuses to say whether Zelensky asked him to mediate between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“For anyone to become a mediator, you need three parties — Russia, Ukraine and the mediator,” the prime minister says. “It takes three to tango. And I don’t think we have the three at this point.”

He declines to answer a follow-up question, whether Zelensky asked him to play a mediator role in the future.

— Raphael Ahren

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