Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that he had held “fruitful negotiations” with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a phone call and discussed the “scandalous” remarks by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov who said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood.
“Held fruitful negotiations with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Congratulated him and the people of Israel on Independence Day!” Zelensky tweeted, adding that he had updated Benett on the fight against Russia and “about the critical situation in Mariupol.”
Later, in his nightly address to the Ukrainian people, Zelensky said the two leaders had also discussed the “scandalous and completely unacceptable remarks” by Lavrov, according to Reuters.
Ties between Israel and Russia have frayed in recent days following a claim by Lavrov that Adolf Hitler had Jewish heritage, in an attempt to explain Moscow’s attempts to “denazify” Ukraine, whose president, Zelensky, is Jewish.
There was no immediate readout on the conversation from Bennett’s office. The call came as Israel celebrates its 74th Independence Day.
Despite Bennett at one point trying to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, ties between Zelensky and Bennett have been strained over accusations that Israel was not sufficiently supportive of Ukraine, nor critical enough of Russia.
However, there has been a shift in tone from Israel in recent days, especially following the evidence of massacres carried out by Russia and the recent antisemitic comments of Lavrov.
Held fruitful negotiations with the Prime Minister ???????? @naftalibennett. Congratulated him and the people of Israel ???????? on Independence Day! Have informed him about countering the aggressor and about the critical situation in Mariupol.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 4, 2022
Reports this week indicated that Israeli officials were set to discuss expanding aid to Ukraine, including supplies of defensive military equipment so far withheld by Jerusalem.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Israel has rejected requests from Kyiv and the West for military equipment such as anti-missile batteries, and only recently agreed to send helmets and flak jackets to civilian rescue and medical forces, part of a policy meant to preserve ties with Russia. Instead, it has sent some 100 tons of humanitarian aid and set up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks.
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.
“There’s still no plan to provide offensive weaponry, but only defensive arms,” the source was quoted as saying.
However, Israeli officials are now expected to support sending Ukraine military aid, albeit at symbolic levels, and still with hopes of keeping its relationship with Russia intact, Haaretz reported Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.
Zelensky earlier Wednesday reacted to Lavrov’s comments, saying that Russia equating him to Adolf Hitler and suggesting he and others in his country’s leadership were antisemites was a continuation of Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda tactics.
Lavrov said Sunday that Hitler had “Jewish blood,” and on Tuesday, the foreign ministry accused Israel of backing “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.”
Speaking to Fox News, Zelensky said Moscow was “following the same concept of Goebbels and they are using the same methodology” in the effort to justify the war on Ukraine.
Goebbels was Nazi Germany’s Reich Minister of Propaganda and helped push the Nazi Party’s antisemitic agenda to the country’s masses and set the stage for the Final Solution.
Zelensky added: “I think the reaction in the world is still weak to these remarks by Lavrov.”
Lavrov’s remarks sparked outrage in Israel, which called the statement “unforgivable and outrageous” and a “terrible historical error.”
Doubling down, Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday accused Israel of backing “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.”
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry claimed Israeli mercenaries were fighting alongside the far-right Azov Regiment in Ukraine, further fueling tensions with Israel.
“Israeli mercenaries are practically shoulder to shoulder with Azov militants in Ukraine,” Maria Zakharova told pro-Kremlin Sputnik radio in an interview.
Speaking Tuesday with The Times of Israel, a senior adviser to Zelensky said that Lavrov’s comments border on Holocaust denial and prove that Moscow is a threat to Jews everywhere.
Andriy Yermak also predicted Israel would move closer to Ukraine, citing Lavrov’s remarks and war crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces.