Although Israel has officially condemned the invasion, accused Russia of war crimes and sent planeloads of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has so far refrained from fully participating in Western sanctions against Russia, mainly because of its own security concerns.
But the comments of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have struck a chord. On Sunday, Putin’s top diplomat tried to justify Moscow’s absurd aim to “de-nazify” Ukraine – an unfounded image of the country, which is led by a Jewish president – by claiming that Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood” and that “the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.”
The Russian ambassador to Israel was summoned for talks at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bennett called the claims “lies” and Lapid described them as “unforgivable and outrageous”, warning that Israel “had tried to maintain good relations with Russia, but there is a border, and this time the border has been crossed.”
“Jews did not kill themselves during the Holocaust,” Lapid added. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse the Jews themselves of anti-Semitism.”
As the feud deepens, Israeli leaders face mounting pressure to harden their stance against Moscow.
Israel regularly carries out airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, which it sees as crucial to prevent the transfer of precision-guided missile technology to the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.
Israel is coordinating with the Russians ahead of strikes in Syria and there are concerns that if relations with Moscow deteriorate, it will also increase Israel’s freedom of action in Syria — something Israel sees as essential to its security.
Israeli officials have also expressed concern that any Israeli action against Ukraine could endanger the large Jewish population in Russia.
Bennett had also tried to act as a mediator, at one point speaking regularly with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Putin, and even secretly flew to Moscow for direct talks with the Russian leader.
Then there’s Iran: Russia is party to negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Israel opposes the deal, pulling every lever to keep it from coming back, and Bennett’s office said he spoke to Putin about it during his clandestine trip to Moscow.
While the latest salvo between Russia and Israel is certainly straining relations, analysts note that so far most of Israel’s anger has focused on Lavrov and his foreign ministry, not Putin.
An Israeli official defended the government’s approach to Russia, saying Israel lacked the legal framework to impose sanctions on another country. Despite this, the official told DailyExpertNews that Israeli institutions were still in the process of complying with US sanctions against Moscow by enforcing what the official described as “silent sanctions”.
Although Israeli media began reporting on Tuesday that Israeli officials are preparing for the first time to send defensive military equipment to Ukraine, Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York, and former Israeli President Shimon Peres’ chief of staff, said that not. think a lot will change.
“If there is a change in policy, it is the belated realization that Israel is essentially siding with the losing side in this conflict, not because of atrocities, war crimes, invasion, what have you, but because you are essentially siding with with the loser and a price has to be paid,” Pinkas told DailyExpertNews.
However, that could change if the situation escalates to such an extent that the Israeli ambassador is expelled from Russia, for example, Pinkas said.
“In that case, Israel has no choice but to deviate from its policy and adopt a new one,” Pinkas said. “But if the Russians don’t and this is just a rhetorical war of words that will disappear in two days? Then nothing fundamental has changed.”
Venezuela and Iran, both under US sanctions, to “work together on energy”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met on Tuesday with Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji to “deepen the ties of brotherhood and cooperation in energy matters,” as Maduro put it.
- Background: Iran and Venezuela are both under US sanctions and have recently tightened their relationship over oil. Iran’s state-run Press TV reported that Owji led a delegation of more than a dozen officials “on a visit deemed important for Iran-Venezuela relations and efforts to neutralize the impact of US sanctions”.
- Why it matters: The visit comes as talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers have reached a deadlock. An agreement would lift sanctions on Iran’s energy exports and facilitate the rise in global oil prices. Iran has sent several shipments of gasoline to Venezuela in the past two years, Press TV reported.
Death of Egyptian researcher requires investigation, US State Department says
The US State Department said Monday the death of an Egyptian researcher requires a “thorough, transparent and credible” investigation, adding that the US is “deeply disturbed” by “accusations of his torture during his detention”.
- Background: Egyptian economic researcher Ayman Hadhoud was detained in February by local security forces, who then sent him to a psychiatric hospital in Cairo, where he died. Rights group Amnesty International said the findings of the investigation suggested he had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated before his death. The Egyptian prosecutor’s office said it had found no evidence of criminal violence in the death of the investigator, according to Reuters.
- Why it matters: The Biden administration withheld $130 million in military aid from Egypt in January over human rights concerns, but days earlier it approved the possible sale of air defense radars and aircraft for more than $2.5 billion. The US has repeatedly reaffirmed “the importance of human rights” in dialogue with Egypt, but the country remains a strategic security partner for both the US and its regional allies.
Turkey announces plan to return one million Syrian refugees
Turkey is preparing a project to persuade nearly a million Syrian refugees to return voluntarily to Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday. He did not go into how he will convince the refugees to return.
- Background: Turkey hosts nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and has the largest refugee population of any country, according to the United Nations. The country’s currency has plunged, triggering record inflation. Opposition figures have blamed the economic woes in part on refugees, and social media has seen growing anti-refugee sentiment.
- Why it matters: The announcement comes ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections as Erdogan’s immigration policy is criticized by opposition parties. Turkish officials, including Erdogan, have said the country cannot handle the entry of more refugees.
what to watch
Prior to the war in Ukraine, Egypt’s economy recovered relatively quickly, the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia director Jihad Azour told DailyExpertNews. But Ukraine’s reliance on Russia for wheat imports and tourism means the recovery has been damaged, he said.
Watch the interview here.
Around the region
Iran’s strict alcohol laws often force those who cannot afford to buy expensive smuggled drinks to resort to consuming home-grown varieties made without regulation and with little experience.
Fifty-nine people suffered from alcohol poisoning in the city, Fatemeh Norouzian, spokesman for the Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, told IRNA. Seventeen of those hospitalized are in critical condition, she added, and four suffered from “severe blurred vision”.
Drinking is prohibited under Iran’s Islamic law, and its use is punishable by public whipping, which is rarely performed.
Only members of religious minorities such as Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are allowed to make and drink alcohol, as long as it is private.
Despite the ban, alcohol consumption is widespread in the country behind closed doors and among the wealthy.
By Nadeen Ebrahim