Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel should be more cautious about its attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and instead put its focus on the Iran nuclear deal, which was more of an “existential security threat.”
“In days like these, it’s advisable to take positions with the utmost caution,” Netanyahu said at the opening of Monday’s Likud faction meeting according to a translation of his remarks by The Times of Israel. “Unfortunately, in the last few days we’ve heard too many unnecessary expressions and too many false predictions.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has condemned the Russian invasion in harsh terms and on Monday announced that Israel would co-sponsor a vote against it at the UN General Assembly.
Israel is one of few Western democracies that is an ally of both Russia and Ukraine and has been cautious about taking sides since Moscow’s invasion. Russia also has heavy military presence in Syria and controls its skies and as such, Jerusalem coordinates all military strikes on Iranian targets in Syria with Moscow.
In addition, both Ukraine and Russia have large Jewish communities and Israel sees itself as a protector of Jews in the Diaspora.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday urged self-proclaimed president-elect Joe Biden not to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, saying Israel would push back against American efforts to do so. https://t.co/3I6B2Rso8b
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) November 22, 2020
At Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett offered to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine during a phone call with President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
Putin did not immediately accept the request, saying negotiations would be carried out in Belarus. However, according to Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, Putin may still take Israel up on the offer should the Belarus talks falter.
Netanyahu, who is largely responsible for Israel’s warm ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, slammed Bennett and Lapid for neglecting the ongoing nuclear talks occurring in Vienna.
“I call on the government to behave responsibly, to speak less about what they don’t need to talk about and to deal more with existential security threats,” he said.
“The nuclear deal with Iran threatens our existence,” Netanyahu said. “And on this very issue Bennett and Lapid aren’t saying anything and aren’t doing anything.”