Photo credit: MAE
The flurry of meetings between senior Ukrainian officials and those from the US, Israel and elsewhere continued on Sunday, with Kyiv asking for more military and financial aid from the Biden administration, as well as technical support to Israel in the face of what appears to be an imminent Russian invasion of its borders.
According to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Ukraine has requested “all kinds of assistance” from Israel in a number of different areas. “These are assessed through a somewhat complex process due to the nature of the applications; we will respond when we have completed our assessment,” he said.
Lapid voiced Israel’s concern over the escalating crisis in Ukraine during a Sunday meeting in Jerusalem with Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister.
The Israeli Foreign Minister informed the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel’s decision to issue a travel warning and expressed hope that the escalation will stop “following diplomatic talks led by United States”.
The Israeli foreign minister also underlined his concern for Israelis and Jews in the country, and gave an update on the preparations and reinforcement of the embassy in Kyiv.
Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem after the meeting, Lapid said Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov met with Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov on Sunday to “be informed and update him as well.” .
Israel is the only country currently in Ukraine, Lapid pointed out, which is not only not withdrawing its diplomats, but actually adding more to them and embassy staff in order to help Israelis and Jews who want to leave.
“We are operating on an emergency format,” Lapid said. “We are also preparing for the eventual closure of the airspace” over Ukraine, “although at this time that does not appear to be happening.”
In addition, he said, “we are making arrangements for the possible sudden evacuation of Israelis and Jews from Ukraine, overland” via Poland, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Moldova too.
“This morning we evacuated all the families of our diplomats to Ukraine,” Lapid noted. “And we are calling on Israelis who are in the country to leave. But in a state that has between 10,000 and 15,000 Israeli citizens and between 150,000 and 200,000 Jews, we cannot simply withdraw our diplomats, because we are going to need them. It is part of the job of the Foreign Ministry and part of the pride of our Foreign Ministry – that Israel is always there to help Israelis in times of need.
Regarding the current military situation on the Ukrainian border, Lapid dryly commented that he does not see much difference “between what is happening on the border between Russia and Ukraine, and what is happening at our own northern border.
“Israel operates in cooperation – there is a good mechanism to work together – with the Russians in Syria. And Israel, as usual, will act in accordance with our assessment of what is necessary to protect our security.
Whatever the circumstances, he added, “Israel will not accept any continued Iranian presence across our northern border.”
But Israel has accepted the fact that it must act very carefully in its relations with Russia and Ukraine in the current situation, noting that there are “very large Jewish communities” in both countries, a situation which requires delicate maneuvers to preserve the safety of both.
The foreign minister dodged a question regarding a request from Kyiv for prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Lapid to both visit Kyiv to show their support.
“We will hold a meeting on this, while we also follow the developments there, and then we will make an informed decision on the matter,” Lapid said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also made a similar request to US President Joe Biden during their conversation on Sunday.
Israel was also peripherally involved in trying to help end the crisis, Lapid said.
“There have been some contacts, although as I said before, we are not a dominant player in this relationship,” he said. There was a discussion with Ukrainian President Zelensky on the question of Ukraine’s borders and his request to President Putin during their conversation in Sochi, about the possibility of using Jerusalem for a summit or for a negotiation effort – a request that was rejected.
” This does not happen ; it was irrelevant to the other side,” Lapid said. “I spoke with the Russian Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov regarding demands of Secretary of State Blinken [as well]. . . so there were efforts, but they were not much different from the efforts of other Western nations in this chapter,” he said.
On whether Israel has learned any lessons about its own security from watching the Ukraine saga, Lapid said with some bitterness: “Unfortunately, the Jewish nation does not need Ukraine’s experience to that we know we are not dependent on anyone but ourselves. . My father understood that in the Ghetto.
“We don’t place our security in anyone’s hands, and Israel’s security and existence survives because we can defend ourselves, and always will. We don’t need anyone’s permission or anyone’s protection; the whole point of establishing and freeing Israel is to make sure we defend ourselves, on our own”
Is there a chance of preventing what appears to be an almost certain Russian invasion of Ukraine? Lapid said he still believed it could be done.
“I think it is possible to prevent this conflict, and that we must prevent it. The way to achieve this is not to abandon the path of diplomacy and cause the two parties to lose contact. Ratings change every day or two depending on the details we receive. But our basic position is that it is still possible to prevent this conflict.
The Pentagon not so optimistic
In the United States over the weekend, the Pentagon echoed a warning from other Biden administration officials that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come “at any moment.”
Speaking to reporters over the weekend, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said US officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is “getting closer every day.
“It’s hard to say exactly, because we don’t know what he has in mind,” Kirby continued. ‘He has well north of over 100,000 soldiers – and he continues to add [more], even in the last 24 to 48 hours. So every day he gives himself new abilities, new options, and like we said, he could actually do something any day now. It’s just a matter of when and how big the attack can be.
Kirby said NATO is ready for whatever comes next, however.
“We’ve added a force posture to what is already a very robust force posture in Europe of 80,000 troops,” Kirby said. FoxNews Sunday in an interview.
“We have added some, to reassure the Allies and deter any aggression against the NATO alliance, but there is no plan, no expectation that these troops will go to Ukraine,” he said. said.
During the president’s hour-long conversation Sunday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” a White House statement released said. after the call.
A day earlier, Biden had warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call from Camp David that the US and its allies would respond ‘decisively and impose swift and severe costs’ on Moscow if a decision was made. to invade Ukraine.
Similarly, Biden told Zelensky that the United States would respond “swiftly and decisively, together with our allies and partners, to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the statement said.
“Both leaders agreed on the importance of continuing diplomacy and deterrence in response to Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders.”