Zelensky urges Western leaders to visit Israel, show country it is not ‘alone’

Ukrainian leader puts in request to visit Israel in what would further highlight difference between Israel’s approach to Russian invasion and Kyiv’s response to Hamas onslaught

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky talks during a joint press conference with Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (not pictured) in Brussels on October 11, 2023. (YVES HERMAN / POOL/AFP)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky talks during a joint press conference with Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (not pictured) in Brussels on October 11, 2023. (YVES HERMAN / POOL/AFP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged Western countries to rally around the people of Israel as they did around Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

Zelensky, who is Jewish and has led his country through the Russian aggression that started in February 2022, said Ukraine understands what it is like to face terror attacks such as the brutal massacre Israel suffered at the hands of Hamas terrorists on Saturday.

Zelensky’s office sent an official request to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office asking to visit Israel, the Axios news site reported, citing Ukrainian and Israeli officials.

Such a trip would further highlight the contrast between Israel’s approach to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and Ukraine’s response to the Hamas onslaught. Israeli prime ministers have thus far refrained from visiting Ukraine and from sending weapons to Kyiv due to fears of upending ties with Russia, which controls the skies over Syria.

Netanyahu did meet with Zelensky on the UN General Assembly sidelines last month, while Jerusalem has largely sufficed with sending humanitarian aid to Kyiv.

But visiting NATO headquarters on Wednesday, the Ukrainian president said, “My recommendation to the leaders to go to Israel and support [the] people… I’m not speaking about any institutions, just to support people who have been under terrorist attacks.”

“It’s very important; unity is more important than being alone. It’s stronger,” he said, adding that aggressors — naming Iran and Russia — should not be allowed to think they can cause a third world war.

Some have pointed the finger at Tehran for planning, or at least giving the green light to Hamas’s devastating assault on Saturday, and Iran has also been widely accused of selling weapons to Russia for use against Ukraine.

Once close allies, relations between Jerusalem and Kyiv deteriorated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But following Hamas’s onslaught, Zelensky issued a full-throated support of Israel, saying, “Israel’s right to defense is indisputable.”

After Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday suggested that the new war between Israel and Hamas demonstrated the “failure” of US policy in the Middle East, Zelensky responded by accusing Moscow of supporting Hamas.

“We are certain that Russia is supporting — in one way or another — Hamas operations,” Zelensky said in an interview with the France 2 television channel on Tuesday. “The current crisis… bears witness to the fact that Russia really is seeking to carry out destabilizing actions all over the world.”

Palestinian terrorists rampaged through the south of Israel, killing some 1,200 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and taking at least 100 captives to Gaza on Saturday. Some 3,000 were injured.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 1,100 in the Palestinian enclave have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes. Israel says it is targeting terrorist infrastructure and all areas where Hamas operates or hides. Jerusalem has also said Israeli forces have killed some 1,500 Hamas terrorists who infiltrated into its territory since Saturday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet on the UN General Assembly sidelines on September 19, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Zelensky on Tuesday also expressed his concern that the international community was turning away from the war in Ukraine in the face of the “tragedy” that has befallen Israel following the Hamas attacks.

“I don’t wish to make any comparisons. There is a terrible war going on in our country. In Israel, many people have lost their loved ones. These tragedies are different, but both are immense,” he said.

Zelensky warned, however, that “international attention risks turning away from Ukraine, and “that will have consequences.”

“Ukraine’s destiny depends on the unity of the rest of the world. World unity depends very much on the unity of the United States,” said the Ukrainian leader.

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