Netanyahu, Zelensky spoke before Ukraine skipped UN vote on anti-Israel resolution

Ukrainian president confirms pair discussed ‘bilateral cooperation’; report says Kyiv’s leader wanted details on how Israel would aid country, but Israeli PM would not provide any

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a signing ceremony following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 19, 2019. (AP Photo/ Efrem Lukatsky)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a signing ceremony following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 19, 2019. (AP Photo/ Efrem Lukatsky)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky prior to the country’s decision Friday to skip the UN General Assembly vote to have the International Court of Justice weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu’s office said Saturday.

According to a tweet by Zelensky, the two “discussed bilateral cooperation between our states, including in the security sphere and interaction on international platforms.”

Axios and Walla reporter Barak Ravid said he was told by Israeli and Ukrainian officials that Netanyahu had asked Zelensky to vote against the measure.

Ravid said Zelensky had wanted to know how Netanyahu intended to change Israel’s policy on providing his country with defensive aid to intercept Russian strikes using drones and missiles, but that Netanyahu would not commit to any steps.

This irked Zelensky, who decided not to vote against the resolution, but to miss the vote “in order to give a chance to the relationship with Netanyahu,” Ravid cited a Kyiv official as saying,

The measure ended up passing by a vote of 87 in favor, 26 against, with 53 abstentions. Israel knew in advance that it would pass in the Assembly, which is regularly able to muster votes for resolutions critical of the Jewish state, but Kan news said Foreign Ministry officials viewed the vote as something of an achievement for Israel, as the number of votes in favor had fallen since an initial committee ballot on the matter in November.

Kyiv’s support for the resolution in the committee last month sparked a diplomatic spat between Ukraine and Israel.

Illustrative: Video monitors show the result of a United Nations General Assembly vote, Wednesday, October 12, 2022, at UN headquarters. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

Under the previous government, Israel was careful not to be overly supportive of any side in the conflict, though it condemned Russia’s invasion on several occasions and supplied humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The reasoning behind the decision is believed to be Israel’s strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, as part of its efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment on its doorstep. To that end, Israel cooperates with the Russian military, which largely controls Syria’s airspace.

But Kyiv has said it needs Israel’s help in air defense technology to counter Russia’s ongoing strikes on its civilian infrastructure.

During his previous terms in office, Netanyahu touted his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and insisted that it was critical to maintaining the IDF’s ability to operate freely over Syria.

In an interview ahead of last month’s election, he characterized the previous government’s Ukraine policy as “pragmatic.”

Both Putin and Zelensky congratulated Netanyahu immediately after the swearing-in of his new government.

Bloomberg news reported in November that Russia has warned Israel it will retaliate if Jerusalem sends defensive weapons to Ukraine.

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