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Israel excluded from Ukraine's solidarity conference in Paris

While Israel has offered humanitarian aid since the start of the conflict, Ukraine’s president has been strongly pushing for weapons and Iron Dome anti-missile batteries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pictured on a screen.

PARIS — Israel did not receive an invitation to the international solidarity conference for Ukraine held by French authorities in Paris on Tuesday.

The conference, which follows two other international meetings on Ukraine’s reconstruction last July and October, is designed to raise funding and support to urgently repair Ukraine's damaged infrastructure. Alongside the European Union member states, the United States and a host of international organizations, the list of participants includes three Middle East countries — namely Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Israel is not participating in the conference for a simple reason: It was not invited.

French diplomatic sources explained to Al-Monitor that the list of invitations was decided in direct consultations between Paris and Kyiv. Still, Jerusalem assesses that it was mostly Kyiv that decided to sideline Israel. The snub is not unprecedented and is not necessarily directed at the new incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel.

Kyiv has been sidelining and even punishing Israel for a while in the international arena.

Last month November, the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee voted in favor of a proposal to request the International Court of Justice to weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli “annexation.” Ukraine was one of the 98 countries to support the resolution. The vote by Kyiv took Jerusalem by surprise.

On Dec. 1, Ukraine supported a call at the UN for an Israeli-Palestinian peace parley to be held in Moscow. The initiative for a conference in Moscow was rejected by Jerusalem. The vote was perceived as yet another move by the Palestinians to pressure Israel in the international arena. With Ukraine in support, it became clear that Kyiv was sending a negative message to the Israeli government. For Israeli diplomats, the recent decision not to invite Israel to the conference today in Paris is part of this puzzling trend.

While Ukraine has received Israeli humanitarian assistance almost from day one after the Russian invasion, Kyiv has been pushing for Jerusalem to provide weapons and other military aid — in particular its Iron Dome missile defense systems. Israel has repeatedly denied these requests, citing "operational considerations," and offered an early-warning system against incoming strikes.

Shortly after the fighting started, Israel was the first country to establish a field hospital in Ukraine, treating more than 6,000 people through the six weeks the hospital operated. Jerusalem had already donated six large electricity generators. Twenty additional generators are expected to arrive in Ukraine next week. Over the past few months, Israel supplied tens of thousands of lunches packed with a special self-warming mechanism. Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky presented last Friday to the media the $1.2 million worth of equipment donated by Israel to the children’s hospital of Kyiv. The entire Israeli yearly international development and additional funds go to Ukraine.

Last July, Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland participated in the international conference to support Ukraine that took place in Lugano. Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz also sent a video-recorded message stating Jerusalem’s willingness to assist.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had expressed on numerous occasions his gratitude to Israel, but at the same time, he hammered (and keeps lambasting) Jerusalem over its refusal to supply Ukraine with weapons and Iron Dome anti-missile batteries.

Last April, Israel shifted in its categorical refusal of military assistance to Ukraine, supplying the country with defensive equipment such as helmets and protective vests. Still, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other Israeli officials made it clear that Jerusalem won’t go beyond that. Zelenskyy is not hiding his disappointment over this Israeli stance.

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