After months of neutrality regarding the war in Ukraine, Israel announced, through its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday that it was “considering” sending military aid to Kyiv. A decision that Moscow apprehended, warning that these weapons would become “legitimate targets for Russian forces.” Has Israel changed its position towards the war in Ukraine? How can Russia deal with this situation politically?
A day after his meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday, during an interview with the American network “CNN”, that he is considering sending military aid to Ukraine.
In the same interview, Netanyahu also expressed his willingness to play a mediating role in the conflict. This comes after Israel announced the reopening of its embassy in Kyiv.
According to observers, Netanyahu’s announcement is an indication of his change in his position on the war in Ukraine, after his commitment to neutrality since its outbreak in February 2022.
Israel limited itself to denouncing the Russian invasion, but remained wary of strained relations with Moscow, which has influence in neighboring Syria, where Israeli forces frequently carry out air strikes against sites it says are of pro-Iranian militias, and it also wants to ensure the interest of Russian Jews.
For its part, Moscow warned Israel, following Netanyahu’s statements, against delivering weapons to Ukraine, as Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “All countries that deliver weapons must understand that we will consider these weapons as legitimate targets for Russian forces.”
To shed light on this situation, FRANCE 24 interviewed Issam Malkawi, a military expert and professor of political science and strategy.
After several months of neutrality, has Israel changed its position on the war in Ukraine after Netanyahu’s statements in which he said he was considering sending weapons to Ukraine?
Israel is trying to balance what it is experiencing in the Middle East and its position on Russia, and it is seeking not to involve itself in the Ukrainian war, because it has international obligations as a result of the European-Israeli-American alliance. Thus, when it is asked to provide military aid to Ukraine, this means that it is obligated to meet Ukraine’s need, since its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, holds Israeli citizenship, and not providing him with assistance, from a moral point of view, gives a bad impression of it to the world that it cannot be trusted.
Israel is trying to balance its strategic position now in the Middle East, especially in Syria against Iranian militias, and its relationship with the West. Netanyahu’s statement is a kind of political maneuver in two directions: the first is with Russia, “If I don’t get what I want from it, the line is open with Ukraine.” And the second is with Ukraine, “I do not forget my friends, and I do not forget my compatriots who hold Israeli citizenship and rule other countries.”
In addition, the Russian situation is no longer as strong as it is able to restrain Israel in the region, and it is information that Israel picked up that it can gamble in its behavior between standing on the fence and being supportive of Ukraine.
Do you think that there will be tangible support and what is its size?
The aid may be direct and indirect at first, until Israel detects Russia’s reaction, and then the transmission becomes smoother.
Direct assistance may be non-military, by providing some intelligence information, reconnaissance tools, and not offensive ones. We call them counter-reconnaissance tools, and these do not constitute offensive weapons in military custom.
As for the indirect way, there may be a third party that has an interest in providing Ukraine with Israeli weapons and equipment. Usually, when countries sell weapons, they stipulate that they not give them to a third party, and since Israel supplies many countries in the world with weapons, I think that it can authorize some countries or any other party to send such weapons to Ukraine, and thus Israel becomes innocent before Russia.
How do you expect Russia to deal with this situation politically?
Russia, if it discovers this, will alert Israel that it has information that there are Israeli weapons in Ukraine, and accordingly it will prevent it from freedom of action in Syrian space because the freedom of Israeli action in Syrian space is with Russian-Israeli intelligence cooperation, and therefore there is a kind of risk of aircraft work, weapons or Devices, funds, and monitoring devices, and this impedes Israeli security action in confronting Iranian militias in Syria.
Russia may also work hard to facilitate the methods for the work of these militias to destabilize Israel’s security, so that Moscow will tell Israel that it is capable of harming its security in response to its misbehavior in dealing with the war in Ukraine.