Do you want to be friends again? There were violent sparks between Israel and Russia this week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a gross anti-Semitic blunder. But now Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office has announced a relaxation: Putin apologized for Lavrov’s statements during a phone call, according to an official statement from Jerusalem. “The prime minister accepted it and thanked Putin for clarifying his views on the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.”
However, this news can not hide the fact that relations between the two countries have entered extremely complicated areas – especially since an apology from Putin was not mentioned on the Russian side after the phone call. It was only said that they had talked about “historical memory” and about the current situation in Ukraine. does Putin say sorry? You have probably never heard anything like this in Moscow.
All reports and background information on the war in Ukraine – in SZ in the morning and in SZ in the evening. Our news–Newsletter keeps you updated twice a day Free registration at sz.de/morgenabend. In our news app (download here) you can also subscribe to the newsletter or our breaking news as a push message.
In any case, Lavrov’s insults have revealed that the longer the war lasts, the deeper the rifts between the two countries. While the government in Jerusalem initially believed that it was necessary to largely ignore Moscow’s propaganda about a “denazification” of Ukraine, Lavrov then went too far with his claim that Hitler, like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, had “Jewish blood.” , and generally speaking. “the greatest anti-Semites are often themselves Jews”.
The prime minister had to get out of cover and accuse the Russians of lying
Foreign Minister Jair Lapid was not the only one to intervene and summon the Russian ambassador, demanding an official apology from Moscow. Prime Minister Bennett was also forced to step out of cover, accusing Lavrov of “lying” and demanding an end to the instrumentalization of the Nazi era and the Holocaust. Israel’s attitude toward the war of others, which had been gently adjusted from the outset, began to falter. The attitude was: restraint.
Israel, the United States’ closest ally, has so far neither joined the West in sanctions against Russia, nor has it provided weapons to Ukraine like other Western partners. There is a strategic calculation behind it. The Russians should not be deterred because they do not want to jeopardize their freedom of action in neighboring Syria. Russian troops control the airspace there – and tolerate Israel regularly bombing Iranian positions on Syrian soil.
The main figures of the Israeli government, Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid, agreed early on on a division of labor for this geopolitical balancing act. Lapid rhetorically reiterates the sentiments of his Western partners, condemning Russia’s war of aggression and talking about “war crimes” in Bucha. Bennett avoided any distribution of Russia until the Lavrov scandal and offered to act as a mediator with equidistance between Moscow and Kiev.
In the West, this, despite all understanding of Israel’s predicament, has caused increasing astonishment, and pressure had increased, especially from Washington. This led to Israel, after initial hesitation, voting against Russia in the recent UN referendums. In addition to humanitarian goods, Kiev was recently promised the supply of protective equipment. And Israel was also represented at the conference hosted by the United States last week on further military assistance to Ukraine.
Even before Lavrov’s statements, it was clear that this upset Russia. In return, for example, Israel’s actions against the Palestinians around the Al-Aqsa Mosque have recently been condemned, and a Hamas delegation visited Moscow this week.
Lavrov’s ministry even followed suit, so the prime minister called the head of the Kremlin
Following Israel’s response to Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Ministry even stepped up its action. Criticism from Jerusalem was dismissed as “antihistorical”, citing that there had already been “cooperation between Jews and Nazis” in the so-called Jewish Councils. Now Israel wanted to support the “neo-Nazi regime in Kiev”, and Israeli mercenaries fought side by side with the Azov regiment in Mariupol.
The phone call between Putin and Bennett was apparently supposed to calm things down again. It is not in Russia’s interest to completely cut the cord to Israel. On this occasion, Bennett immediately resumed the role of mediator, who had recently been pushed into the background. The day before the meeting with Putin, he had already spoken to Zelenskiy on the phone, and on his behalf he was now pushing for further opportunities to evacuate civilians from the Mariupol steel plant. But since the Lavrov conflict, Bennett has also known how fragile his connection to Russia is.