Ukraine and Israel: “Iran is a common enemy”

February 17,2023 774
Ukraine and Israel: “Iran is a common enemy”

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s 12-hour visit in Kyiv – the first visit of an Israeli minister to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion – included visiting Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Hostomel, the sites of Russian war crimes, and the Babyn Yar memorial of Holocaust and culminated in a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Summarizing the visit, Ynet says it had three goals, the first and foremost being to show that Israel is “on the right side” and supports Ukraine like the European countries and, of course, the United States.

The second goal, and no less important for Israeli officials, was to place the Iranian issue at the forefront, as the Russia-Ukraine war has an impact on the State of Israel from the Iranian point of view.

According to Ynet, Ukraine is today an influential country in the international arena, and Israel would like to harness it in the fight against Iran, a “common enemy” of both countries, as Zelensky defined it in his conversation with Cohen. Cohen and Zelensky agreed on “deepening cooperation in the fight against Iran in the international arena.”

Finally, the visit was to strengthen the connection between Israeli and Ukrainian governments and increase Israel’ humanitarian aid to Ukraine. (The aid Israel has already donated to Ukraine is the largest it has ever donated to a foreign country. The last year’s Israel aid to Kyiv is estimated at 80 million shekels – nearly $22.5 million.)

A senior Israeli official told Ynet that this goal was achieved. Cohen informed the Ukrainians that Israel would support Zelensky’s peace plan, which will come up next week as a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly. Israel was among the first countries to announce in advance that it would support the plan, even before it was presented.

On the other hand, in the conversation with the president, Cohen raised the issue of Ukraine’s voting pattern against Israel last year at the United Nations and said that Israel expects a change in this voting pattern.

The minister and the president discussed Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts almost a year after the invasion of the country by the Russian army and how Israel will be involved in these efforts. Cohen also informed Zelensky that the Israeli Embassy in Kyiv will return to continuous work for the first time since the beginning of the full-scale war.

Cohen offered to help in restoring water systems and promised that Israel would consider how it could contribute to restoring schools. Zelensky also brought up his wife’s project to treat post-trauma victims and asked for Israel’s help in training therapists in this field.

Another issue discussed was the military aid since Kyiv did not miss an opportunity last year to criticize Israel for insufficient assistance, according to Ynet. During the visit, the Ukrainians did raise a series of requests regarding security and military aid, with an emphasis on defensive measures. Still, Zelensky understands the complexity of Israel’s situation and did not ask Cohen for offensive weapons. Cohen promised that the smart civil warning system would arrive from Israel to Ukraine within three to six months and that he would make an effort to spur the delivery.

Cohen explained: “Israel is in a complex situation; it is neither Portugal nor Canada. We have a common border with Russia [in Syria], and we have the Iranian threat.”