Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister laments ‘lack of political support from Israel’

Emine Dzhaparova calls for more Israeli involvement in crisis, as Jerusalem voices caution and seeks to balance its relationships with both Kyiv and Moscow

Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova in Kyiv, Ukraine, August 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Deputy Ukrainian Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova lamented a “lack of political support” from Israel during the crisis with Russia, in a Friday interview with Israeli television.

Her complaint came as Russian troops continued to mass on Ukraine’s borders, the US warned of an invasion, and exchanges of fire along the conflict line sparked fears of a potential conflagration in eastern Europe.

Israel has been attempting to balance relations with both Ukraine and Russia during the crisis, but Ukraine has sought Israeli involvement several times.

Israel maintains a friendly relationship with Ukraine and warm, but sensitive ties with Russia.

Israel and Russia both have a stake in Syria, where Israel seeks to counter Iranian influence, and Russia has a presence and alliance with the Assad regime. Overlapping interests in Syria sometimes cause friction between Moscow and Jerusalem.

Ukraine and Russia also both have significant Jewish communities, which Israel takes into account.

A Ukrainian soldier walks along trench on on the front line with Russia-backed separatists near Novolugansk in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, February 16, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP)

Dzhaparova told Israel’s Channel 12 on Friday that Ukraine understands Israel’s “sensitivities with Iran, with Syria — that you need to balance with Russia with regards to your interests.”

“We also think that there is this lack of support, lack of political support” from Jerusalem, she said.

She said Ukraine had invited Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to visit Kyiv, “and also, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, maybe he will also visit Ukraine.”

Dzhaparova called the 2014 pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea “a shock,” but said the Ukrainian military has significantly improved since.

The 2014 war “also gave us a huge impetus in order to understand who we are, and what is our national identity,” she told Channel 12 correspondent Efrat Lachter during an interview in Kyiv.

“It’s crucial to understand and to have this feeling that we are responsible for our future, and a responsibility to protect ourselves. And if others help us with this, we appreciate it,” she said.

She said she took inspiration from Israel’s ability to defend itself. She said an Israeli friend had given her a necklace with a boxing glove pendant that she was wearing during the interview.

“He told me, ‘You are a fighter, you’re fighting, so you need to keep this on you.’ So this is something that I took from Israel as a symbol,” she said.

On Monday, speaking with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster while on a visit to Israel, Dzhaparova had asked that Israel, rather than assume war was imminent, help to negotiate a cooling of the escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

She said then that calls from Israel and other countries to evacuate citizens created panic and hurt the Ukrainian economy as investors pull their money from the country. Israel has repeatedly implored its citizens to leave Ukraine, has readied evacuation plans in case war breaks out, and has made plans for moving its embassy away from Kyiv.

Dzhaparova met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday and told him Israel should show “greater involvement” in the crisis, Kan reported.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hosts Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova in Jerusalem, Febraury 13, 2022 (via Twitter)

Ukrainian sources told the station that due to Israel’s good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, it is well-positioned to serve as a mediator.

Lapid reportedly told Dzhaparova that Israel is not a player in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and therefore is acting with caution.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, who was born in Russia, on Sunday met with Russia’s ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov.

“Israel is not a party to the conflict,” Razvozov told Viktorov, according to Kan. “Like everyone, we want the situation to calm down.”

Lapid told The Times of Israel in an interview last Saturday that one country invading another was “very 20th century.”

“We thought we were beyond this,” he said.

“I’m going to be more cautious about this than any other foreign minister in the Western world, probably, because I have a problem no one else has, which is two huge Jewish communities [in Russia and Ukraine] that we need to be able to protect,” Lapid said.

“I’m all for any kind of peaceful resolution to the issue,” he said, and called for mediators to listen to both Russian and Ukrainian concerns.

He refrained from directly criticizing Russia, acknowledging Jerusalem’s sensitivities in its relationship with Moscow.

“We strongly oppose any country invading another and trying to conquer not only territory, but also conquer the solutions to the problems that need to be discussed in a peaceful way,” he said.

On Thursday, Ukraine reprimanded Israel’s ambassador to Kyiv after Jerusalem asked Moscow for help evacuating Israeli citizens in the event of war.

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