Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov last Wednesday, likely thanks to US pressure on the Netanyahu government to provide military assistance to Kyiv.

An Israel statement read, "Gallant was briefed on developments on the ground, and expressed concern regarding the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. The parties also discussed the common threat posed by Iran, and its influence on the war in Ukraine, as well as its wider global impact." It explained that Gallant updated Reznikov on the development of the Israeli missile warning system expected to be delivered to Ukraine in September. 

While the Israeli statement did not mention requests by the Ukrainian side for military assistance, a report by Axios earlier this week revealed that the phone-call came at the request of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in his meeting last week with Gallant in Brussels, on the margin of the NATO defense ministers’ gathering. Also last week, unnamed Ukrainian officials told the Times of Israel that Reznikov has been unable until then to arrange a phone conversation with Gallant.

Axios reported that at their meeting, Gallant discussed Israel’s humanitarian and defense assistance to Ukraine with Austin, repeating Jerusalem’s position against supplying Kyiv with weapons. An unnamed Israeli official was quoted as saying that Washington understands the Israeli position. 

From the outset of the war in Ukraine, Israel has offered Ukraine humanitarian aid but not military assistance. The current Israeli government and its predecessor have been forced to be cautious on assisting Ukraine militarily by various factors including the vital communication channel between the Israel Defense Forces and the Russian army that enables Israeli jets to attack Hezbollah- and Iran-affiliated targets in Syria, Moscow's status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Moscow's relationship with Iran and the large Jewish community in Russia.

Israel has repeatedly said that Washington understands its red lines on military assistance to Kyiv and its reluctance to provoke Moscow. However, since the invasion, Israel has shifted its position on at least four points, apparently following pressure by the United States, Europe and Ukraine:

  • In April 2022, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced Israel will send Ukraine protective equipment such as helmets and vests, which will be dispersed to local rescue forces and civil organizations. 
  • An October 2022 report by The New York Times revealed that Israel has been indirectly providing Ukraine with intelligence on the Iranian-made drones used by the Russian army against the Ukrainian population.
  • In March 2023, Israel agreed to offer Ukraine a warning system for rocket and drone attacks. The system, used in Israel for a few years, is now being tested and adapted to Ukrainian conditions. It is expected to be finalized and installed in Ukraine in the fall. 
  • In his May 2 meeting with EU Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen discussed among other things a new project for Israel to de-mine war-stricken areas in Ukraine. An Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor at the time that the EU is interested in assisting with such a project.

Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the civilian warning system would be provided, Ukrainian pressure on Israel has calmed somewhat. But recently, Kyiv and Washington have renewed their demands. 

In a June 20 interview with the Times of Israel, Ukrainian Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak expressed his frustration over Israel’s continued refusal to supply his country with military assistance, stating, “Nobody but Israel can provide equipment to combat attacks by Iranian drones.” 

“We can see the Kremlin dictator taking family photos with Iranian leaders and then this Iranian weaponry is being used against us and against you. I don’t know what else is needed,” said Yermak. “I cannot understand why we have so far had the pleasure of welcoming very many world leaders in Ukraine, but not the Israeli prime minister.”

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