Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova lamented Israel’s “lack of political support” during the crisis with Russia, in an interview with Israeli television on Friday.
His complaint came as Russian troops continued to mass on Ukraine’s borders, the United States warned of an invasion and exchanges of fire along the line of conflict raised fears of a possible conflagration in Eastern Europe.
Israel tried to balance its relations with Ukraine and Russia during the crisis, but Ukraine repeatedly asked for Israel’s involvement.
Israel enjoys friendly relations with Ukraine and warm but sensitive ties with Russia.
Both Israel and Russia have a stake in Syria, where Israel seeks to counter Iranian influence, and Russia has a presence and an alliance with the Assad regime. The overlapping interests in Syria sometimes cause friction between Moscow and Jerusalem.
Ukraine and Russia also have large Jewish communities, which Israel takes into account.
Dzhaparova told Israel’s Channel 12 on Friday that Ukraine understands Israel’s “sensitivities with Iran, with Syria – which you have to balance with Russia when it comes to your interests.”
“We also think there is this lack of support, this lack of political support” from Jerusalem, she said.
She said Ukraine had invited Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to visit Kyiv, “and also Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, maybe he will also visit Ukraine.”
Dzhaparova called the pro-Russian takeover of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 a “shock”, but said Ukraine’s military had improved significantly since then.
The 2014 war “also gave us a huge boost to understand who we are and what our national identity is,” she told Channel 12 correspondent Efrat Lachter in an interview in Kyiv.
“It is crucial to understand and have this feeling that we are responsible for our future, and the responsibility to protect ourselves. And if others help us with that, we appreciate it,” she said.
She said she was inspired by Israel’s ability to defend itself. She said an Israeli friend gave her a necklace with a boxing glove pendant that she wore during the interview.
“He said to me, ‘You’re a fighter, you fight, so you have to keep that on you.’ So that’s something I took from Israel as a symbol,” she said.
Speaking to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster on Monday during a visit to Israel, Dzhaparova called for Israel, rather than assuming war was imminent, to help broker an easing of rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia. .
She said then that calls from Israel and other countries to evacuate citizens had caused panic and hurt Ukraine’s economy as investors withdrew their money from the country. Israel has repeatedly pleaded with its citizens to leave Ukraine, prepared evacuation plans in case war breaks out and planned to move its embassy away from Kiev.
Dzhaparova met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday and told him that Israel should show “greater involvement” in the crisis, Kan reported.
Ukrainian sources told the station that because of Israel’s good ties with Moscow and Kyiv, it is well placed to mediate.
Lapid reportedly told Dzhaparova that Israel was not a player in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and therefore acted with caution.
Russian-born Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov met with Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov on Sunday.
“Israel is not a party to the conflict,” Razvozov told Viktorov, according to Kan. “Like everyone else, we want the situation to calm down.
Lapid told The Times of Israel in an interview last Saturday that one country invading another was “very 20th century.”
“We thought we were beyond that,” he said.
“I’m going to be more careful about that than any other foreign minister in the western world, probably, because I have a problem that no one else has, which is two huge Jewish communities. [in Russia and Ukraine] that we need to be able to protect,” Lapid said.
“I am all for any kind of peaceful resolution of the issue,” he said, and called on the mediators to listen to Russian and Ukrainian concerns.
He refrained from directly criticizing Russia, acknowledging Jerusalem’s sensitivities in its dealings with Moscow.
“We strongly oppose any country that invades another and tries not only to conquer territory, but also to conquer the solutions to the issues that need to be discussed peacefully,” he said.
On Thursday, Ukraine reprimanded Israel’s ambassador to Kiev after Jerusalem asked Moscow to help it evacuate Israeli citizens in the event of war.