Will Israel Go All in and Arm Ukraine?

Will Israel Go All in and Arm Ukraine?

Sensitive items like air-defense systems and other advanced weaponry will likely be excluded from any aid packages for the time being.

The government of Israel is reportedly considering expanding its aid to Ukraine, including both humanitarian and military assistance—a step that would mark a significant shift in its attitude toward the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Israeli officials have noted that the Jewish state has already sent around 100 tons of humanitarian assistance to Kyiv, including water purification systems, medical equipment, clothing, and four armored ambulances from its “Magen David Adom” national emergency health service. Officials also speculated that Israel could send “plenty of [military] items” to aid Ukraine in its defense against Russia. Items discussed as possible ranged from combat helmets to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. However, the report noted that sensitive items like air-defense systems and other advanced weaponry would likely be excluded for the time being.

While Tel Aviv’s military aid to Ukraine would likely be a primarily symbolic gesture, as the United States and European Union have already donated far greater amounts of materiel, it would mark a significant break with Israel’s previous policy of attempting to remain neutral in the conflict. Since Russia’s invasion, Israel has criticized the outbreak of war and called for peace but has largely avoided directly accusing Russia of instigating the conflict as the United States and most European nations have. Nor has Israel joined the international sanctions campaign against the Kremlin.

Despite its nominal neutrality, Israeli officials attended a summit in Germany last week regarding the further provision of international aid to Ukraine. That summit, which included representatives from forty-three countries, was attended by Brig. Gen. Dror Shalom, the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Political Security Division. Before the summit, Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz announced that Israel would begin sending protective equipment, including bulletproof vests and combat helmets, to Ukraine’s rescue and emergency services, although not its regular army.

Israel has long maintained a complicated political and security relationship with Russia. The two nations have contradictory interests in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has allied with Russia and Iran, Israel’s primary adversary in the Middle East. Although Israel and Russia have agreed to coordinate such that Israeli strikes in Syria do not accidentally target Russian forces, the Kremlin has increasingly criticized Israel’s military actions in Syria in recent years.

More recently, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stoked outrage within Israel after comparing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to Adolf Hitler and falsely claiming that the Nazi leader was part-Jewish. After Israeli Holocaust experts denied Lavrov’s claim, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that Israel supported Ukrainian neo-Nazis, leading Tel Aviv to summon its Russian ambassador in protest. Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid characterized Lavrov’s comments as “unforgivable and outrageous.”

Israel’s Defense Ministry did not comment on Haaretz's report.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.