May 26, 2022

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FM said Israel would help Ukrainians "as much as we can"

FM said Israel would help Ukrainians “as much as we can”

Demonstrators gather in support of Ukraine after the Russian invasion and watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech as it is broadcast in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2022. REUTERS/Corina Kern

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Lviv, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized Israel in a speech to its parliament on Sunday, asking why it did not provide missile defenses to his country or punish Russia for its invasion.

In response to Zelensky, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid did not comply, saying in a statement that Israel, which had sent a field hospital and other humanitarian aid to Ukraine, would continue to help its people “as much as we can.”

As a mediator in the Ukraine-Russia crisis, Israel condemned the Russian invasion. But it is concerned about strained relations with Moscow, which has influence in neighboring Syria where Israeli forces frequently attack militias loyal to Iran.

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“Everyone knows that your missile defense systems are the best … and that you can certainly help our people, saving the lives of Ukrainians and Ukrainian Jews,” Zelensky, who is himself a Jew, told the Knesset in a video call.

“We can ask why we can’t get weapons from you, why Israel didn’t impose heavy sanctions on Russia or put pressure on Russian companies,” he said in the speech, one of several he made to foreign legislatures.

He referred to Israel’s Iron Dome system, which is often used to intercept rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

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Either way, the choice is yours, brothers and sisters, and you then have to live with your answer, the people of Israel,” Zelensky said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin two weeks ago in Moscow and has spoken with him frequently since then, Zelensky was among more than 100 of the 120 parliament members who took part in the video call.

He did not immediately comment after the Ukrainian leader spoke.

In his speech, Zelensky drew a comparison between the Russian offensive and Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews during World War II.

“Listen to what is being said now in Moscow, and hear how they say these words again: the final solution. But this time with regard to us, as to the Ukrainian question,” he said.

Zelensky did not cite any evidence in making this claim or identifying the person who may have used the term. Putin has used an expression meaning “final decision/final decision” once in the past 30 days, according to Reuters monitoring of his remarks, but not in a context that has the same resonance or meaning as Nazi terminology.

Zelensky’s reference prompted condemnation from Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial in Jerusalem, for the murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany in World War II. She said such “irresponsible statements” diminished the importance of the historical facts of the Holocaust.

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(Reporting by Pavel Politiuk and Max Hunder) By Matthias Williams and Ari Rabinovich; Editing by Alexander Smith, Jeffrey Heller and Frances Kerry

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