Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan will not address the General Assembly debate on the Ukraine invasion, following orders from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who wants Israel to keep a lower profile ahead of its vote in favor of a resolution condemning Russia, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel Tuesday.
Instead, deputy ambassador Noa Furman will address the General Assembly in a debate scheduled to take place Tuesday evening.
In a swipe at Erdan, a Jerusalem-based source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that Lapid wants to be sure that whoever addresses the plenum will stick to the Israeli government’s messaging, as the foreign minister wants to avoid a diplomatic spat.
Erdan had sent reporters a video clip of him embracing his Ukrainian counterpart Sergiy Kyslytsya in the General Assembly plenum on Monday evening. It is unclear if this was related to Lapid’s decision to exclude him from Tuesday’s debate.
But the Foreign Ministry reportedly has not taken to a number of Erdan’s recent steps, namely interviews he gave to the Israeli press without the government’s consent, contact with Likud activists and a decision to rip up a human rights council report criticizing Israel in a speech at the plenum, which some in Jerusalem felt caused more attention to the matter than deserved.
The General Assembly resolution is almost certain to pass, with many of its 193 member states having publicly expressed support in Ukraine. Israel is set to back the motion.
Earlier Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was met with a cold shoulder at the United Nations. Scores of diplomats walked out of two meetings at the UN in Geneva in which Lavrov was beamed in for a video statement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on the other hand, received a huge round of applause after addressing the European Parliament by videolink, with EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola vowing that Europe “will stand up” and support Ukraine.
Israel has so far been careful in its comments on the conflict and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has avoided criticizing Moscow publicly. Last week, Israel declined a US request to co-sponsor a Security Council resolution condemning Russia.
On Monday, however, Jerusalem seemed to change course, with Lapid saying that Israel would support a UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it had a moral responsibility to both condemn Russia for its actions and provide humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainians.
“Israel will join and vote in favor, along with the overwhelming majority of nations,” Lapid said.
He added that the US understands Jerusalem’s need to be “careful and discretionary” in its delicate relations with Moscow, due to the presence of Russian forces in Syria that coordinate with Israel, as well as the large number of Jews in Ukraine.