Israel Faces Tough Balancing Act on Russia and the West

By John Mercury March 19, 2024

Israel, though heavily dependent on support from the United States, Germany and other Western nations, has been noticeably out of step with them when it comes to relations with Russia during its war of conquest in Ukraine.

Long before Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, the country refused Ukrainian requests to send arms or to apply widespread sanctions on Russia, including stopping flights to the country. Despite the eagerness of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, himself Jewish, to visit the country and show solidarity after the attack, he has never made the trip.

The reasons reflect Israel’s unique security needs and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s delicate relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a primary supporter of Israel’s enemies in the region whom Israel cannot afford to offend.

As Israel’s war with Hamas enters its sixth month, Mr. Netanyahu needs Mr. Putin’s good will to help constrain Iran in particular and to continue to strike Iranian targets in Syria while trying to avoid harming the forces Russia maintains there.

So Mr. Netanyahu has consistently given the Russian leader wide latitude, even at the risk of alienating Israel’s main allies in Europe and the United States.

“Israel is playing on a delicate tightrope,” said Emmanuel Navon, the Israel-based executive director of ELNET Israel, a nongovernmental organization that seeks to strengthen diplomatic ties between Israel and Europe.


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