Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky did not mince words in criticizing one country in particular for refusing to sanction Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stepped up his criticism of Israel’s refusal to sanction Russia on Thursday, during a speech by the Jewish leader at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Zelensky’s speech four months into Russia’s war against Ukraine comes amid a new political crisis in Israel that is likely to see Naftali Bennett replaced as prime minister by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid within days.
Bennett refrained from criticizing Russia’s invasion and emphasized Israel’s close ties to Moscow and Kyiv, while his administration did not impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.
Days after the February 24 invasion, Lapid condemned Russia’s actions as a “violation of world order,” with Israeli commentators saying his contrasting rhetoric was coordinated to safeguard Israeli neutrality.
Zelenksy, who has family in Israel and has visited the country several times, told the Hebrew University in a video address that he has had a hard time understanding the Jewish state’s soft approach to Russia.
“How can you not help the victims of such aggression?” Zelenksy said, lamenting Israel’s refusal to offer military aid to Ukraine.
“I don’t know how to answer the questions I always get about how Israel has helped and what else Israel can do.
“I am grateful to the people of Israel. I am grateful for the sincere and emotional support to the people of Ukraine… but we would also like to receive the support of your government”, he added.
The Israeli government and major rescue organizations have sent humanitarian and medical aid to Ukraine, but weapons supplies remain off the table.
Zelensky also recalled the historical ties between Ukraine and Israel, a message he emphasized in a March speech to Israeli politicians.
In Thursday’s speech, Zelensky noted that former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s childhood home in Kyiv was “five minutes” from her presidential office.
“Please remember how much we are linked, how close our ties are, what the level of understanding between us should be,” he said.
“Why we have this miscommunication, misunderstanding with government representatives, I don’t know.” Until now, Israel has followed a cautious diplomatic line in the Ukraine conflict, in part to preserve Russian cooperation in Syria, where Israel regularly carries out airstrikes with the tacit acceptance of Moscow, which has forces in the country.