'The Israeli government remains in its comfort zone'

Ukraine’s envoy blasts Israel for withholding Iron Dome, protective gear

Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk thanks Israeli public, but says government must decide whether it wants to join ‘the right side’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, gives a statement to the media in Tel Aviv, on March 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)
Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, gives a statement to the media in Tel Aviv, on March 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

Ukraine criticized Israel on Tuesday for refusing to provide defensive weapons and for not accepting wounded Ukrainian soldiers for rehabilitation.

“While Russia slaughters our citizens, the Israeli government remains in its comfort zone and refrains from providing Ukraine with minimal defensive assistance,” Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, said in a Tel Aviv press conference.

“We ask Israel for a defensive tool in the form of an Iron Dome and similar defensive tools,” Korniychuk continued. “As Israel protects the residents of the Gaza Strip from Hamas fire, we must protect our citizens, women, children and men.”

Korniychuk added that Israelis show “love and empathy,” but government actions do not match the rhetoric.

The envoy also said that the helmets and flak jackets sent by Israel in May were only 10% of what Kyiv requested.

Israel shipped 2,000 helmets and 500 flak jackets that the Defense Ministry said would be given to rescue forces and civilian organizations.

Helmets and flak jackets are shipped to Ukraine, May 19, 2022 (Defense Ministry)

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Jerusalem has tried to preserve its ties with Moscow and has until recently refused to send defensive equipment to Ukraine — instead sending over some 100 tons of humanitarian aid and setting up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks.

Israeli policy stands in contrast to that of the US and many European countries, which have provided lethal weaponry to the Ukrainians. On Monday, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced that Britain would be sending Kyiv the M270 multiple-launch rocket system, which can strike targets 80 kilometers away.

Israel is also refusing to aid wounded Ukrainian soldiers, Korniychuk said.

“We are asking Israel to accept former soldiers whose limbs were amputated to fit them with prostheses, and Israel is delaying. There is no humanitarian aid more than this,” he said.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, listens to a serviceman report close to front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, June 5, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

“The Israeli government must consider the moral aspect and decide whether it will join the right side like other democracies in the world,” said the ambassador.

After blasting Israeli policy, Korniychuk made sure to “thank Israeli citizens, companies and organizations, who have been helping Ukraine since the first day of the war.”

On the 103rd day of the war, fighting continues to rage around the city of Severodonetsk in the southeastern Luhansk Oblast. Russian forces were also making a push in the Zaporizhia region, but the geographic scope of fighting is a far cry from the first weeks of the war when Moscow tried to take Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin with the remains of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during his funeral in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, June 3, 2022. According to combat comrades Makhachek was killed fighting Russian forces when a shell landed in his position on May 30. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

In May it was reported that Israeli officials are expected to support sending Ukraine military aid, albeit at symbolic levels, and still with hopes of keeping the country’s relationship with Russia intact; however, there has not been an announcement on the matter.

According to a diplomatic official, Israel will not consider sending offensive arms or advanced defensive technology, such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system, but will attempt to find equipment that can be donated without sparking a crisis with Moscow.

Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have specifically mentioned Iron Dome as the top of their wish list for Israeli defensive equipment.

“Everybody knows that your missile defense systems are the best,” he told the Knesset in March. “You can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews.”

Sending defensive arms would mark a sea change in Israel’s approach to the war, though it would stop well short of the tanks, guns, planes and ammunition sent by the Europeans and Americans.

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