Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday met with his Ukrainian counterpart in Jerusalem, marking a formal end to a spat between the two countries over Kiev’s support for a UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements.
During a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office with Volodymyr Groysman, who became Ukraine’s first Jewish prime minister last year, Netanyahu described the premier’s visit and the mending of ties between Jerusalem and Kiev as a “moment of courageous friendship.”
“This is a moment of courageous friendship because of the shared history that connects Ukraine and Israel,” he said, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Groysman was originally scheduled to come to Israel for a two-day visit in December, but after Ukraine voted in favor of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements as having “no legal validity” and “a flagrant violation under international law,” Jerusalem disinvited the premier to protest Kiev’s support for the resolution, which Israel denounced as “shameful.”
Emphasizing that there were no longer hard feelings over Kiev’s support for December’s Security Council resolution, Netanyahu said that ties between the two countries were on a “new path” after Ukraine voted against a UNESCO decision earlier this month denying Israeli claims to Jerusalem.
“You reaffirmed the friendship between us with the important vote at UNESCO, which puts our friendship on a new path,” he said, while adding that “I am aware of your personal involvement in this decision, which I doubly appreciate.”
Continuing to lavish praise on Groysman, Netanyahu also thanked his counterpart for taking a stand against anti-Semitism.
“I also know your and your government’s stance against anti-Semitism and for this you have our triple appreciation,” he said.
Groysman also praised the “shared history” between Israel and Ukraine, which he noted “was all the more important as we mark 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our nations.”
Earlier Sunday, Groysman told President Reuven Rivlin during a visit to the President’s Residence that the purpose of his trip was to “develop [an] even better relationship with our friend Israel, and to deepen our strategic partnership,” according to a statement from the President’s Residence.
Although Groysman’s visit was seen as marking a formal end to the spat between the two countries, a February phone call between Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko effectively put an end to tensions between Jerusalem and Kiev, with a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office at the time saying “the two leaders agreed to resume their efforts to further strengthen the friendship between Israel and Ukraine.”
In the wake of the passage of the Security Council measure, Ukraine defended its vote in favor of Resolution 2234 by hinting at its own conflict with Russia as a driving force behind the decision.
Without explicitly mentioning Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and a civil war in the country’s east with Russian-backed separatists, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it “experienced itself the tragic consequences brought by” the violation of international law, effectively drawing a parallel between Israeli building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Russian policies.
After the measure was passed, the Israeli government took a number of retaliatory measures against countries that supported its passage, including an official dressing-down of the Security Council members’ ambassadors to Israel.
The Security Council resolution, which passed 14-0 with the United States abstaining rather than vetoing, also called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” while also expressing its “grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.