Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, effectively burying the hatchet after a crisis in bilateral relations due to Kiev’s support for a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of the settlement enterprise.
“The two leaders agreed to resume their efforts to further strengthen the friendship between Israel and Ukraine,” a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office read. Among other things, Netanyahu and Poroshenko discussed rescheduling the cancelled visit of Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to Israel.
Groysman, who became Ukraine’s first Jewish prime minister last year, was scheduled to arrive in Israel for a two-day visit days after Ukraine voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 in late December. The meeting would have included meetings with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other top officials, but Jerusalem disinvited Groysman to protest Kiev’s support for the resolution, which Israel denounced as “shameful.”
Ukraine reacted to the slight by summoning Israel’s ambassador, Eli Belotsercovsky, to the Foreign Ministry in Kiev.
Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, halted all senior visits from countries that voted for the controversial resolution. His friendly phone call with Poroshenko and reports he is planning to meet UK Prime Minister Theresa May in London early next week seem to suggest that his ban for high-level contacts for backers of 2334 is over.
“We consider Ukraine a very important country and our relations are excellent,” a Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “We look forward to reciprocal high-level visits.”
‘Most of Ukraine was shocked at the UN vote’
Most Ukrainians were surprised and disappointed at their government’s support for Resolution 2334, said Oleksandr Feldman, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and the president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, who is visiting Israel this week.
“The Jewish community was shocked over the Ukraine government’s vote. And most of Ukrainian society was also shocked. They didn’t expect it. It was a scandal. It is still a scandal,” Feldman told The Times of Israel during an interview this week, speaking through an interpreter.
Indeed, even the Ukrainian government has come to regret voting in favor of the resolution and would oppose any similar texts going forward he said. “Ukrainians want to think about this resolution as history; they want to leave the past behind.”
Feldman, who was scheduled to meet with Interior Minister Arye Deri, Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin and officials in the Foreign and Diaspora Affairs ministries, said his visit to Israel was mainly intended to try to repair ties between Kiev and Jerusalem.
Understanding that Israel was furious about Ukraine’s vote in favor of Resolution 2334, he proposed a bill that would require his country to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He admitted that his bill has “very low chances” of being passed into law, but insisted on proposing it to send a message that Ukrainians are keen to develop strong relations with Israel.
Feldman said his friend Groysman deeply regretted that his visit to Israel was cancelled, and that he is in contact with Israeli officials to schedule a new date. “I’m sure there will be a visit of the PM in the near future,” he said.