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Israel to provide Ukraine with anti-drone systems, as Netanyahu visits Germany

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gone on the offensive, arguing in Berlin that his judicial reform will strengthen Israeli democracy, not weaken it.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

PARIS — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed their countries' support to Ukraine on Thursday in a meeting in Berlin. The meeting took place just as the Israeli Defense Ministry reportedly approved export of anti-drone systems to Kyiv, in a first since the Russian invasion. 

At their conference in Berlin, Scholz and Netanyahu committed to support Ukraine as the war with Russia enters its second year.

''I thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for pledging further aid and humanitarian aid and other assistance [to Ukraine]. Germany, Europe, Israel, we firmly stand by Ukraine's side'' said Scholz. 

''We are offering Ukraine not only humanitarian aid but also help in civil defense - a warning system. Israel is developing capabilities which are quite cutting-edge on this domain, to prevent for example people going into shelters or a whole region going into shelter,'' said Netanyahu.

"We are moving ahead with that, and we are moving ahead in other ways," he added. 

Axios citing Ukrainian and Israeli official sources reported on Thursday that Israel has "approved the export licenses for the possible sale of anti-drone jamming systems that could help Ukraine counter Iranian drones used by Russia during the war." Israeli media outlets confirmed the news quoting defense officials. 

The news of the weaponry approval comes less than 48 hours after Netanyahu's meeting with his national security echelon on Ukraine on Tuesday. The meeting included Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, Mossad chief David Barnea, among others, the premier's office said. 

Netanyahu did not address the reports on the export licenses in the conference. But the approval marks a turning point from the more cautious approach that Israel has pursued since the invasion. Israeli officials have attempted to balance their strategic relations with Russia's Vladimir Putin who wields influence in neighboring Syria, while also voicing support to Ukraine. 

Iran's support for Russia in the war, however, and its arming of Moscow with lethal drones, is another factor in tipping Israel's position in the war. 

Judicial overhaul 

The controversial judicial overhaul plan was also at the center of Netanyahu-Scholz meeting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Israeli opposition Thursday of refusing to sit down with the coalition and discuss the judicial overhaul plan advanced by the government. "I have called many times on the opposition to sit and talk. They did not agree, not to one meeting, one hour, one moment," said Netanyahu. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Berlin is closely following Israel's judicial coup "with concern."

Addressing the media at a joint press conference in Berlin with Scholtz, Netanyahu focused on two topics: Israel’s campaign against Iran, its nuclear program and support of global terrorism, and the judicial reform advanced by his government. The two leaders also discussed the possibility of Germany purchasing the Arrow 3 missile defense system.

Netanyahu said that as prime minister, he has defended human rights, gender equality, the rights of the LGBTQ community and more over the years. He also said that he was seeking broad consensus on the plan, but with the opposition striving for chaos and government crisis, it is unlikely to happen. Netanyahu repeated his rejection of President Isaac Herzog’s compromise, arguing it does not represent the principles his coalition is committed to advancing.

The Israeli prime minister was welcomed in Berlin by hundreds of Israelis demonstrating against the judicial overhaul. A demonstration also took place early Thursday morning in Tel Aviv outside the German Embassy.  Still, Netanyahu can consider himself lucky. Scholz's remarks against the judicial reform were rather short and did not extend beyond what Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock already said in Israel last month.


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