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Israeli leadership caught between US, Russia over Ukraine

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid walk a fine line to avoid angering Russian President Vladimir Putin while not turning their backs on the United States and Ukraine.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Sept. 9, 2021.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s briefing to reporters Feb. 13 about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine can best be described as circumspect. It focused on the urgent need to evacuate Israelis still in the volatile region. The reason for this is that official Israel is doing everything it can to avoid taking a stance in the conflict. It is caught between Ukraine and the West on one hand and the Russians on the other hand. It maintains friendly relations with all the parties involved in the conflict and shares mutual security, diplomatic and cultural interests with them.

Nevertheless, beyond his carefully chosen words, the Israeli foreign minister seemed to be implying that Israel tended to favor Ukraine. Lapid also stressed that Israel is the only country that has not removed its diplomats from the beleaguered nation. On the contrary, it actually increased staffing at its embassy there during the crisis. He also discussed his meeting earlier that day with Ukraine’s deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar and how they reached an understanding that the embassy would open a second office in Lviv should this be deemed necessary.

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