Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.
Since the beginning of Russia’s genocidal full-scale invasion, Ukraine has been asking Israel for military support. And to date, Israel has yet to deliver. The need for weapons has become even more acute in recent weeks as Iran began supplying Russia with surface-to-surface missiles and drones. According to reports by Ukrainian intelligence agencies, the Islamic Republic is set to deliver more than 200 Shahed-136 and Arash-2 kamikaze drones, and Mohajer-6 reconnaissance and combat UAVs later in November.
In an official request submitted to Israel on November 1, the Ukrainian government asked for top air defense systems developed by Israel, in particular: Iron Beam, Barak-8, Patriot, Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow Interceptor and Israeli support in training for Ukrainian operators.
The laser-based Iron Beam, intended for use against short-range missile and mortar attacks as well as drones, is not yet operational. The Patriot missile defense system is made by the US and has not been included in the hardware of Washington’s own multi-billion-dollar supplies to Ukraine.
David’s Sling and the Arrow Interceptor, medium- and long-range defense systems respectively, are cutting-edge interceptors.
In justifying the requests, the Ukrainians said that “according to available information… there is a high probability of prompt deliveries to the Russian Federation of Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from Iran,” reported the website Axios.
The letter argued that supplying the requested systems will benefit Israel as “positive experience gained by Iran of using… weapons in Ukraine will lead to further improvement of Iranian systems.”
Such experience will “significantly contribute in strengthening Iran’s potential of producing offensive weapons and, as a result, will increase the security threats for the State of Israel and the Middle East region,” the letter noted.
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared that while Israel will continue its support for Ukraine over the invasion, “it will not deliver weapon systems to Ukraine, due to a variety of operational considerations.”
However, he said Jerusalem could supply an early-warning system to the beleaguered nation to warn of incoming strikes, like the one used in Israel.
In a rare expression of unity between coalition and opposition figures, Gantz and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu both expressed an unwillingness to alter Israel’s policy of not sending defense weapons to Ukraine.
In a subsequent interview with USA today, Netanyahu, who is set to regain power following the November 1 election to the Knesset, Netanyahu said he will “look into” supplying weapons to Ukraine if he returns to power. But this was actually a qualified answer as Netanyahu added that the weapons could fall into the hands of Iran.
Frankly, we have difficulty understanding that excuse. These are air defense weapons which will be deployed around cities far from the battlefield but continually bombed by missiles fired against civilian targets by Russian forces. Furthermore, it is Russian equipment that is falling into Ukrainian hands, not the other way around. And, as Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov pointed out, Israel should be concerned by the fact that Iran was gaining operational experience in the use of drones, which could be used against Israel in the future. We would like to add that the more Iranian missiles get shot down by Ukrainian forces using Israeli anti-aircraft defense systems, the more their supply gets depleted and the fewer weapons they’ll have to threaten Israel with.
Another excuse has been that Israeli politicians are concerned about the fate of Russian Jews? Well, what about Ukrainian Jews? All citizens of Ukraine are subjected to Russian attacks on civilian populations and civilian infrastructure regardless of religion or ethnic origin. And the number one target for the Russians is none other than Ukraine’s Jewish President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Israel has been trying to keep neutral in this conflict, imagining itself as a potential mediator. Well, when dealing with Vladimir Putin there is no such thing as mediation. The only thing he understands is brute force.
Then there is the moral question. Surely Israel, the country that became the haven for Holocaust survivors should realize the horror of the genocide being committed by the Russians upon the people of Ukraine. As Zehava Galon, the daughter of Holocaust survivors put it in an Op-ed piece in the highly respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz back on April 25:
“Genocide is happening before our very eyes, and we send the victims a few helmets, to ease our conscience. And we have interests, of course. But Switzerland and Sweden and the Vichy government also had interests, and we don’t allow them any excuses. How could the world be silent, we ask. Like this, exactly like this. In the terrible overload of information, every day, slowly getting used to the horrors. More could have been expected from us. This is a moral test that we should have passed. And someday, we won’t be allowed excuses either.”
Ukraine’s allies should point out to Netanyahu that when he forms Israel’s next government, he should do more than just “look into” supplying weapons to Ukraine. It is in the strategic interests of both Ukraine and Israel; to deliver air defense systems capable of inflicting great damage upon Iranian drones and missiles. What’s more, it is the morally right thing to do.