Tel Aviv Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Israel has refrained from criticizing Russia and its President Vladimir Putin out of self-interest. Because Russia controls the airspace over Syria and allows the Israeli air force to take unhindered action against Iranian activities in the northern neighbor. To prevent its arch-enemy from being present there, Israel needs Putin’s consent.
But now the reserve is over. Not out of horror at the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine, but because of a historical comparison that infuriated Israeli Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In an interview with the Italian TV channel Rete 4, the 72-year-old Muscovite chief diplomat initially reiterated that the Nazis were in charge in Ukraine and that Putin therefore wanted to overthrow the “brown” regime in Kiev.
As if Lavrov had known that this mantra would be met with resistance, he continued: Many would argue that there could be no “Nazification” in a country where the president is Jewish, Lavrov said. But Adolf Hitler “also had Jewish blood,” Lavrov claimed, adding: “It does not matter at all. The wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his Secretary of State Jair Lapid have sharply countered this accusation. He considers Lavrov’s statements to be “serious” and “untrue”, Bennett rejected the comparison. Lies like these would serve to blame the Jews themselves for the most horrific crimes in history committed against them, thus relieving the oppressors of the Jews of their responsibility.
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Lapid is talking about a terrible mistake
Foreign Minister Lapid was even clearer. Lavrov’s verdict was “unforgivable, outrageous,” he said, referring to a “terrible historical mistake.” To claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent is “like saying that the Jews killed themselves”. It made him angry, not only as foreign minister, but also as the son of a father who was put in the Budapest ghetto – “not by Jews, but by the Nazis”.
Lapid announced that he would summon the Russian ambassador for a “hard talk” and insist on an apology. Federal government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit also called Lavrov’s statement “absurd”. He believes Foreign Minister Lavrov’s Russian propaganda “needs no further comment,” he said in Berlin.
For Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba, Lavro’s analogy is a breakthrough. In an interview with an Israeli channel, he spoke out against Moscow, which has claimed that Ukrainians are responsible for crimes committed by their own armed forces: This is the perverse logic of the Russian elite. Even Lavrov, who knows what diplomacy is, can no longer hide the deep-seated anti-Semitism, “deeply rooted in the Russian elites.”
Observers in Jerusalem say Lavrov’s interview may have contributed to the deterioration of relations between Russia and Israel. Since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, Israel has deliberately avoided committing itself too close to both sides. It is one of the few countries that has relatively good relations with both Ukraine and Russia.
In March, Bennett became the first Western politician to meet Putin for three hours in Moscow after the outbreak of war. He then called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and President Emmanuel Macron before flying to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
>>> Read here: “Absurd, delusional, dangerous and abominable” – Lavrov aroused indignation in Israel with the Nazi comparison
The fact that Israel of all things was accepted as a mediator can, on the one hand, be explained by the neutrality that Jerusalem has trusted from the beginning of this conflict. Defense Minister Lapid has not endorsed the economic sanctions, nor has he condemned Moscow or supplied weapons to Ukraine. At the same time, Israel maintains good relations with the United States.
However, Lapid’s rhetoric has changed following reports of Russian massacres of civilians. In April, he specifically accused Russia of war crimes. Moscow also recently publicly criticized Jerusalem for supplying defense equipment to Kyiv. The proposal by the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine to name streets in Kiev after those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust also met with disapproval in Moscow.
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