Foreign Minister Yair Lapid undertook the thankless task of condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine this week. A day earlier, on Feb. 22, Israel issued an anemic announcement supporting Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” without mentioning Russia. The United States and the West were not satisfied and the Russians were irritated. At about the same time, Russia’s UN ambassador announced that his country condemns Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.
This reference to Israel’s Golan takeover from Syria 55 years ago signaled officials in Jerusalem that the time had come to get off the fence. Israel’s heart is in the democratic Western camp, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the Syrian side of its Golan Heights border fence. Lapid even calls the Russians “our northern neighbors.” The Russian radars deployed in Syria lock on Israeli fighter jets every time they take off, even from Israel’s southernmost air bases. This week, Israel reportedly launched two raids on Syria, bombing Iranian-backed targets on the Syrian Golan and another equally destructive bombing run in the Damascus region.