Israeli Defense Minister: “We Did Not Sell Weapons To Ukraine”
Israeli Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, emphasized on Tuesday that Israel has not yet sold weapons to Ukraine, just hours after Kiev’s foreign minister announced that his government would formally ask Jerusalem to supply it with arms. “I want to make it clear that we did not sell weapons to Ukraine,” said Gantz in an interview with the Kol Chai radio station. Instead, he highlighted the humanitarian aid the Jewish state has already sent Kiev, vowing that such shipments would continue as Russia’s months-long war against Ukraine enters the winter months.
The comments, which some observers have construed as leaving the door open to future arms sales, came after Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told a news conference on Tuesday that his country would formally ask Israel to supply it with air defense systems, amid ongoing Russian aerial bombardments and revelations that Iran is providing Moscow with suicide drones.
Israel has shied away from arming Ukraine over fears of upsetting Russia, the leading player in Syria, where the Israeli military has in recent years conducted hundreds of strikes aimed at curbing Tehran’s military entrenchment and the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah there and in Lebanon.
On Monday, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and current deputy chairman of its Security Council, said that “Israel appears to be getting ready to supply weapons to the Kyiv regime,” a prospect he called “very reckless.” Israel would completely destroy relations with Moscow by sending weapons to Ukraine, he added. The warning was an apparent response to a Tweet on Monday by Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, who wrote: “This morning it was reported that Iran is transferring ballistic missiles to Russia. There is no longer any doubt where Israel should stand in this bloody conflict. The time has come for Ukraine to receive military aid as well, just as the USA and NATO countries provide.”
Speaking with MSNBC on Tuesday, however, Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu described Israel’s position on Ukraine as “prudent.” “On the question of weapons there’s always a possibility—and this has happened time and again—that weapons we supplied in one battlefield end up in Iranian hands used against us,” said Netanyahu, adding that Tehran-backed fighters in the Syrian Golan Heights had used Israeli-made arms to target the Jewish state. As such, Netanyahu said the current coalition’s “circumspect” position of not shipping weapons to Ukraine was “important.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian ambassador to Israel Yevgen Kornichuk on Tuesday said that the cancelation by Gantz’s office in August of a scheduled call with the Israeli defense minister’s Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov was “deeply disappointing.” “They did not provide an explanation for the cancelation,” Kornichuk told Maariv in an interview, adding,”Going forward, I don’t think our defense minister will be in contact with Gantz.” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid is scheduled to speak with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba on Thursday, according to Israeli media reports.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate.
(Additional reporting provided by JNS Reporter)