Report: No foreign envoys invited to Israeli V-Day event due to Russia tensions

Immigration minister said to make decision in order to avoid possible diplomatic incident with Moscow or Kyiv’s ambassadors at annual ceremony marking victory over Nazis

Red Army veterans and supporters march in Haifa for Victory Day, celebrating victory over the Nazi regime in World War II, on May 10, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)
Red Army veterans and supporters march in Haifa for Victory Day, celebrating victory over the Nazi regime in World War II, on May 10, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

The Absorption Ministry has decided not to invite any foreign ambassadors to the annual ceremony it is holding next week to mark Victory Day, the Walla news site reported on Tuesday.

The ministry did not confirm the claim.

Victory Day, marked in Russia on May 9, is the country’s most important secular holiday, commemorating the Soviet Red Army’s determination and losses in World War II.

The main ceremony for Victory Day in Israel is held at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl National Cemetery, an event to which envoys for the former Soviet republics and other countries who participated in WWII are always invited.

According to the Walla report, which did not cite any sources, the decision not to invite foreign envoys this year was made in order to avoid any sort of diplomatic incident that might have come from inviting the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors.

The move was reported after Labor MK Gilad Kariv reached out to Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, urging her not to invite Russian representatives to the ceremony due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The recent actions of the Russian government contradict the essence of Victory Day, which sanctifies the fateful partnership of the peoples [of the former Soviet Union], and upholds the commitment to democracy and its values,” Kariv wrote in a letter to Tamano-Shata.

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata attends a press conference at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on April 4, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In a statement, the ministry said that the ceremony at Mount Herzl and all other events will take place as scheduled on May 9, but did not say whether foreign envoys will be invited.

“Ambassadors from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and all the former Soviet Union are usually invited,” a source from Tamano-Shata’s office told Walla. “At the moment there is a lot of sensitivity between these countries and no one wants there to be a diplomatic incident between the ambassadors that would create tensions at the event. In light of these sensitivities, it was decided not to invite the ambassadors.”

Early on in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel sought to walk a diplomatic tightrope between Moscow and Kyiv, preserving relations with both of its allies and offering to broker talks. More recently, Jerusalem has turned toward stronger support of Ukraine, denouncing Russia for alleged war crimes as well as sending helmets and flak jackets to Ukraine, reversing an earlier policy of not supplying military aid.

Relations between Moscow and Jerusalem have deteriorated further over the past weeks, most recently following Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s claim Sunday that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood. Israel strongly denounced the top diplomat’s false claims, meant to justify the invasion of a country Russia has claimed is led by Nazis, but whose president is Jewish. On Tuesday Russia doubled down, accusing Israel of supporting “neo-Nazis” in Kyiv.

About 1.5 million Jews fought in Allied armies during World War II, including 500,000 in the Red Army, 550,000 in the US army, 100,000 in the Polish army and 30,000 in the British army, according to Yad Vashem.

Some of those who fought in the Red Army served in the highest levels of command. About 200,000 Soviet Jewish soldiers fell on the battlefield or into German captivity. Those who survived built families and careers in the Soviet Union, until the Communist regime collapsed and many of them ended up in Israel.

Israel is home to the world’s largest population of Holocaust survivors. Memorials to Holocaust victims and underground partisans are aplenty. But only in recent years has the Jewish state begun to salute its Jewish war veterans.

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