Zelensky aide blames inertia in Ukraine foreign ministry for UN vote against Israel

Oleksiy Arestovych’s statements at innovation summit in Warsaw were not coordinated with government, says envoy, as Israel continues working to convince Kyiv to change stance

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Personal aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Alexey Arestovych, seen during an interview aired on August 16, 2019. (File, YouTube screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Personal aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Alexey Arestovych, seen during an interview aired on August 16, 2019. (File, YouTube screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s personal aide said Wednesday that Kyiv’s UN vote in November to refer the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the International Court of Justice in The Hague was a “mistake” that must be fixed.

Speaking at the Ukraine-Israel Innovation Summit in Warsaw, Oleksiy Arestovych blamed inertia within Ukraine’s foreign ministry for support of the resolution, titled “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.”

The UN General Assembly Fourth Committee voted in favor of the measure by a margin of 98 in favor, 17 opposed and 52 abstentions.

Two days after the November 11 vote, Arestovych called Kyiv’s position “illogical and unacceptable.”

Arestovych’s comments do not mean Kyiv has decided to vote against the measure when it comes up for a vote in the General Assembly later this month. A date has not yet been set, and this week Yevhen Korniychuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, told The Times of Israel that it was too early to talk about Kyiv’s position.

Foreign Minister Oleksii Reznikov “was not involved” in Arestovych’s Wednesday statement, Korniychuk told The Times of Israel.

“He is free to say what he wants, but our focus is elsewhere,” the diplomat continued.

A Ukrainian diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity told The Times of Israel this week that they had personally asked a senior adviser to Prime Minister Yair Lapid and National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata to appeal to their counterparts in Kyiv to oppose the measure ahead of the November vote, but that the latter had ignored the request.

Lapid’s office told The Times of Israel that it does not comment on private diplomatic conversations.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata speaks at Bahrain’s annual Manama Dialogue conference on November 20, 2022. (Screenshot)

Asked about the report, an Israeli official said diplomats had been in touch with Zelensky’s office before the vote, but did not go through the Ukrainian official in question.

In addition, Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan approached his Ukrainian counterpart Sergiy Kyslytsya ahead of the November 11 session.

Israel has been hard at work trying to move Ukraine on the issue ahead of the General Assembly vote. Lapid sent a letter to Zelensky asking him to oppose to measure.

“I’ve spoken several times with several deputy ministers in Ukraine, including one face-to-face last week, regarding their vote in December,” added Israel’s envoy to Ukraine, Michael Brodsky, who is leading Israel’s efforts to convince Kyiv to change its position.

Israel Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky speaks to The Times of Israel’s Lazar Berman in Kyiv, July 20, 2022 (Israel Embassy in Ukraine)

“We’ve absolutely conveyed the message more than once,” he said.

Brodsky has also conducted a series of interviews in Ukrainian media expressing Jerusalem’s disappointment.

After the vote, he voiced his criticism on Twitter, saying Ukraine’s “support of the UN resolution… denying Jewish ties to Temple Mount and calling for ICJ advisory opinion is extremely disappointing.”

“Supporting anti-Israeli initiatives in the UN doesn’t help to build trust” between the countries, said the ambassador.

At the Warsaw conference on Wednesday, Brodsky raised the idea of Israel helping to build an “economic iron dome” for Ukraine, using the Jewish state’s experience in creating a resilient economy while security threats lurk over its borders.

The United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee votes on measures addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the United Nations in New York, November 11, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The envoy will be back in Kyiv next week to hand over 20 powerful electricity generators.

Ukraine has repeatedly requested military aid and equipment from Israel to fight off Russia’s assault on the country since late February. While providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Israel has maintained a strict policy of not providing military aid, including systems that could help it intercept Russian missile and drone attacks.

The reasoning behind the decision appears to be Israel’s strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, as part of its efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment on its doorstep. To that end, Israel cooperates with the Russian military, which largely controls Syria’s airspace. Israeli officials have also expressed fear that advanced military technology could fall into enemy hands and cited production and supply limitations.

Last month, Zelensky called on Israel to stop “balancing” its relationship between Ukraine and Russia, as he issued a fresh call for Jerusalem to provide Kyiv with military aid.

“If [Netanyahu] just wants to maintain his personal relations with President Putin, then of course he may continue to do what he has been doing,” Zelensky said. “But if he wants to maintain the historical relationship between Israel and the Ukrainian people, then I think you need to do whatever you can in order to save as many people as possible.”

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