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After Netanyahu’s offer to mediate between Russia, Ukraine, Kremlin warns against supplying Ukraine with military aid

Israel did agree to the recent U.S. plan to supply Ukraine with ammunition from the American stockpile that is stored in Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon watch honour guards passing by during a commemoration ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Victory Day, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, in which he offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, Russia warned Israel not to supply weapons to Ukraine.

“We say that all countries that supply weapons [to Ukraine] should understand that we will consider these [weapons] to be legitimate targets for Russia’s armed forces,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said

“Any attempts – implemented, or even unrealized but announced for the supply of additional, new or some other weapons  – will lead to an escalation of this crisis. And everyone should be aware of this,” Zakharova added.

Netanyahu conditioned his offer to mediate in the conflict upon whether all relevant parties would ask him to do so, including Russia, Ukraine and the United States. He also said he was “looking into” providing “other kinds of aid” to Ukraine besides humanitarian help. 

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, Israel has not agreed to supply Ukraine with weapons or munitions, or with the Iron Dome, an important element of Israel’s own air defense systems. 

In October, Ukraine submitted an official application for Israel's air defense systems in a bid to get protection from Russian drones and other attacks.

“Ukraine is highly interested in obtaining from Israel (in shortest possible terms) defence systems, in particular: Iron Beam, Barak-8, Patriot, Iron Dome, David's Sling, Arrow Interceptor and Israeli support in training for Ukrainian operators,” the Ukrainian application read

Ukraine has pressured Israel to deliver and Israel’s lack of consent has strained the relationship. However, Israel has a significant incentive to guard their key air-defense systems from enemy capture. 

In January, Israel did not agree to a request from the Pentagon to give Ukraine certain Hawk anti-aircraft missiles that Israel bought from the U.S. in the 1960s as a defense against Egyptian and Syrian airstrikes. 

Israel has not used the system for at least a decade and, while it keeps ten Hawk batteries and hundreds of interceptors in storage in Israel, an Israeli Defense Ministry official told the Pentagon that Israel’s Hawk systems are “obsolete” and no longer functioning, having been kept in storage without maintenance.

According to Axios, the official also told the Pentagon there is no change in Israel’s policy not to provide weapons systems to Ukraine. 

Israel did agree to the recent U.S. plan to supply Ukraine with ammunition from the American stockpile that is stored in Israel. The little-known U.S. stockpile contains weapons and ammunition that the Pentagon can use in the Middle East should the need arise, and also has been used by Israel in the past. 

Israel was initially concerned about the U.S. plan, fearing it could damage its own relations with Russia, which operates in war-torn Syria, on Israel’s border. However, as Israel has no say over the stockpile, it facilitated the transfer.

Last year, Israel delivered various kinds of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including a working field hospital with staff. This week, the Jewish state sent Ukraine three armored ambulances

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stated that Israel’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine will continue but also indicated that Israel will be much less public about criticizing Russia for its actions compared to former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

“On the issue of Russia and Ukraine, we will do one thing for sure – speak less in public,” the foreign minister said last month.

During an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Netanyahu explained that Israel’s relationship with Russia is complicated because of its unique security situation, which sees Iran’s maneuverings in neighboring Syria as a threat. According to the prime minister, Israel must ensure it has “freedom of action” in Syria in order to be able to “keep Iran in check.”

“What we have with Russia is a complex relationship because, not very far from here, a few miles from here on our northern border with Syria, Israeli aircraft and Russian aircraft are flying within spitting distance of each other. Russia is militarily in Syria. Iran is trying to implant itself in Syria right next to our northern border, the way they did in Lebanon with Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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