Israel will meet its moral obligation in the Ukraine war in two ways. One is by logistical planning to take in Ukrainian Jews, thereby doing more than other countries to address the problem of refugees that has emerged in Poland, and possibly elsewhere, as well.
The other is by looking out for the need to protect Israel’s existential security interests—the battle against the Iranians and Hezbollah in Syria, and the strengthening of sovereignty on the Golan Heights.
Israel has no moral obligation to throw itself into the Western states, led and followed by the United States, in their conflict with Russia. If the report that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine is true, Israel has made a serious mistake, which follows that of the [Yair] Lapid-Bennett government in moving closer to the U.S. from its beginning.
It’s no wonder that everything now appears complicated. A navigational error led us to this point. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led a new policy that created a historic understanding with Putin’s Russia. He moved Israel away from the American administration under President Barack Obama, to give Israel freedom to maneuver in the north and in Iran. Political savvy saves bloodshed.
But the more important consideration is that those same “Western” countries demanding that Israel join them in United Nations condemnations of and their alignment against Russia are the ones that have been condemning and diplomatically isolating Israel for years.
A special committee of a U.N. body is on its way to Israel to investigate alleged war crimes. The West’s policy on Israel, led by the U.S. during the Obama-Biden administration, can be summed up as: pathetic weakness when it came to Russia; pacifying Iran; and hostility towards Israel. So Israel, apart from humanitarian solidary with a nation under attack, should not attach itself to failed American policy.
The current government’s turn has neutralized Israel in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. President Joe Biden’s U.S is different from what we knew, and its major mistakes have led to the current war. It’s amazing to read a Thomas Friedman piece published in The New York Times in 1998 that predicts exactly the current tragedy.
Friedman interviewed legendary “X”—George Kennan—who shaped the U.S. policy of containment for decades of the Cold War. At 94, he despaired of the policy then-President Bill Clinton and his people were leading to push NATO eastward. He and Freidman predicted a disaster.
”I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake,” Kennan told him. At the time, no one knew who Putin was.
Biden’s American is also the America that demonstrated horrifying weakness in its disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the way in which it has crawled towards a new Iran nuclear deal while removing sanctions on the regime. The Russians realized that they had an unfit American leader and were tempted to make an offensive move.
There is no valid moral reason to adhere to the failed U.S. policy on Russia at a time when, in dealing with our main enemy, Iran, the U.S. is operating against Israel’s vital interests. The Russians have already responded to Israel’s official declarations with a message that refused to recognize the Golan Heights as Israel.
A prominent Russian analyst said, “The Syrians are free to liberate the Golan Heights.” It would be better to focus on humanitarian aid for the Ukrainians and avoid condemning Russia officially or politically.
Amnon Lord is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper “Makor Rishon.” His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in “The Jerusalem Post,” “Mida,” “Azure,” “Nativ” and “Achshav.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.