U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham criticized Israel’s new foreign minister, Eli Cohen, over a comment regarding Israel speaking less about the Russia-Ukraine War in public.
Graham responded to a speech in which Cohen affirmed that Israel would continue humanitarian aid to Ukraine but that Israel would “talk less about it [the conflict] in public.”
In the speech, Cohen said he would be speaking with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. On Tuesday, Lavrov called Cohen to congratulate him on his new position.
According to an Israeli readout of the phone call, Lavrov spoke about “bilateral and regional issues” and Cohen talked about the importance of Russian-speaking Jews in Israel, as well as the Jewish community in Russia.
Graham has been a vocal supporter of Israel, having visited the Jewish state several times. and is considered a friend of Israel. He has also been outspoken in his support of Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022.
“The idea that Israel should speak less about Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine is a bit unnerving,” the senator posted on social media on Tuesday. “To stay quiet about Russia’s criminal behavior will not age well.”
Graham called the Russian government a “war criminal regime.”
During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous term in office – prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the premier argued that his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin was vital for Israeli interests in Syria, where multiple international players, including Iran affiliates, have attempted to secure a foothold.
Putin called to congratulate Netanyahu last week on his success at forming the new coalition and becoming Israel’s prime minister once again.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu has said he would consider arming Ukraine, in contrast to the previous government's hesitation to provide weapons.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that Cohen’s statements do not signal a new policy regarding Russia and indicated that Cohen would speak with his Ukrainian counterpart in the near future.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.