A senior Ukrainian military delegation visited Israel last week in a bid to secure defense assistance, according to a news report on Israeli television Monday.
The delegation, which included a top Ukrainian military commander, held several meetings with Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry officials, Channel 13 news reported.
The Ukrainians reportedly sought to push ahead with creating a missile alert system, which Israel has allegedly promised to build for Ukraine.
The delegation also pushed Israel to supply weapons systems, which Israel has so far refused to do, sending only humanitarian aid and protective equipment.
The network added that Israel tried to play down the delegation’s visit to avoid sparking tensions with Russia.
Though it has sent repeated shipments of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Israel has consistently rebuffed Kyiv’s requests for defense weapons, specifically missile defense systems that could be used to fend off Russian airstrikes, despite expressing sympathy for the country’s plight.
Israel’s refusal is seen as an attempt by Jerusalem to maintain working ties with Moscow, due to Russia’s control of Syrian air space, where Israel’s air force has carried out hundreds of sorties against alleged Iranian arms shipments and in order to keep groups backed by Tehran from establishing a foothold.
Kyiv’s requests for air defense systems — and its public criticism of Israel’s refusal to provide them — have grown more strident in recent weeks, as Iranian-made drones play an increasingly central role in Moscow’s aerial attack on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.
In a phone call last with week his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he hoped the new government Benjamin Netanyahu is working to establish will cooperate with Ukraine.
It is not clear whether Netanyahu will change course on the war, in the event that he takes office again, as expected. The Kremlin spokesman struck a hopeful tone earlier this month about the future of Russia-Israel ties under Netanyahu, who has had good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Though a scathing critic of the outgoing coalition, Netanyahu praised its “prudent” approach toward Ukraine during an interview last month, highlighting Israel’s absorption of refugees and other humanitarian initiatives while refraining from supplying weapons.
Zelensky spoke with Netanyahu following the November 1 election in Israel and said that the presumed incoming prime minister had agreed to look at supplying Ukraine with air defense systems.
Agencies contributed to this report.