Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to Moscow made him the first Western leader to sit down with Russian leader Vladimir Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The visit was highly significant for Israeli interests. Although Israel, like most countries, is concerned about the humanitarian toll on Ukraine, there is a long-term strategic angle to the Bennett trip, which includes Russia and Iran.
One of the most misguided comparisons made in the West about the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the drawing of a parallel between Ukraine and Israel because Ukraine has a Jewish president. Israel is a Jewish state with a Jewish identity. This is certainly not to undermine the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, but Ukraine is not Israel. Ukraine has a .4 to.5% Jewish population which Israel has not abandoned. Israel is resettling many Jewish refugees from Ukraine — and from far beyond. In fact, Israel has found itself so overwhelmed in its generosity, that the exceptional flow of refugees has prompted Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to revamp a “more balanced” policy. A full 90% of the refugees arriving in Israel are ineligible to immigrate, according to Israel’s Law of Return.
Aside from Israel’s concern for human life, which it consistently proves (from medically treating Palestinian jihadists to its rescue response during the great Haitian earthquake of 2010), its strategic interests in the Russia-Ukraine crisis cannot be ignored. Four months ago, Israel and Russia were collaborating together on the common goal of ousting Iran from Syria, and established a “deconfliction hotline to keep the sides from getting tangled up and accidentally clashing over Syria.” This was despite the long history of cooperation between Russia and Iran. Israel’s interest in keeping Iran out of Syria is an Israeli priority, given that Iran has been entrenching itself near the Syrian border with Israel, prompting Israel to launch a new phase in its campaign to protect itself from Iran’s jihad against it, as well as Iran’s proxies, such as Hezbollah.
Israel’s association with Russia still holds Israel’s priority during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It is also a disservice to Israel for anyone to muddle Israel’s identity with Ukraine due to the Jewish identity of the Ukraine leader. Ukraine has a concerning reputation: a horrific history of persecuting Jews. It currently grapples with a big corruption problem, a Nazi problem, a World Economic Forum problem, and the long-time influence and interference of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
Benjamin Netanyahu was rather wise to instruct his government to “be quiet on Russia” and focus on Iran — the archenemy of Israel. So when Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew off to the Kremlin to try to broker peace, informed intuition should have registered that there had to be another salient matter at hand in Israel’s interests since the whole world is trying to broker peace. And indeed there is. Outside of global politicking, it is a requisite that Israel focus on its survival — which Iran threatens. According to a BBC article:
Israel has significant relations with both Russia and Ukraine…. But Mr Bennett was flying into something he sees as strategic in the crisis. “Israel has also developed frequent dialogue with the Russians, or ‘our neighbors to the north’ as one official reportedly referred to them recently. Russia controls the skies over Syria, where Israel routinely carries out air strikes. It says it targets weapons transfers and militants linked to Iran, the country it sees as an existential threat.”
Although the BBC report states that “the relationship dynamics of one regional crisis are becoming entangled in another,” the Russia-Ukraine crisis bears a gargantuan impact on the entire world. The interests of every ideology is in some fashion wrapped up in this crisis: Democracy, Nazism, Communism, Globalism, and Islam. In the meantime, innocents are suffering, so hopefully a peace deal can be brokered quickly. For those who also have interests in Israel’s survival, Netanyahu’s advice should not be dismissed.