With Ukraine, the Playing Margins between West and East are Narrowing over the Entity’s Fears of Effects on it and on Syria
Since the Ukrainian crisis started dramatically escalating lately, and especially after the Russian military operation began, states around the world started aligning sharply on one side or another and things polarized to the maximum extent: you’re either on the West’s side or against it. Nevertheless, some regional and international players found themselves torn amid this alignment, each for different considerations.
We talked in a previous article about the “Israeli” behavior towards the Ukraine issue in the context of the joint air patrols that Russia carried out with the Syrian army near the Occupied Syrian Golan.
As the events in Ukraine escalated last week, media all over the world started immediate coverage and analysis. “Israeli” media has extensively covered the subject, with tens of articles and analyses, and nearly all of them make a link to Syria. Interestingly, many western media outlets have also discussed the (Ukraine) subject with a focus on “Israel” and its position therefrom, also nearly always mentioning Syria.
Here, we will take a look at some of what the media, particularly “Israeli”, has said about the events in Ukraine over the last week, due to its importance in understanding the effects of what is happening at the global level on our region as a whole, and on the main conflict therein:
Monday, 21 February
Ahead of the start of the Ukraine battle, “The Times of Israel” published an article exploring “Israeli” fears on how US sanctions on Russia could affect “Israeli” raids in Syria. According to the article, “unnamed security officials… said Israel’s close ties with the US could jeopardize its coordination with Moscow vis-a-vis its operations in Syria”.
The article cites an official saying that “US sanctions against Russia put Israel in a very embarrassing position… The United States is a long-standing stable ally, but Israel needs Russia given the circumstances in the Middle East”.
The article went on to talk about “Israel’s” relationship with Russia, which has become increasingly tense recently, noting the abovementioned joint air patrols. In this regard, the article noted that “Israeli officials were struggling to understand why Russia, which announced that such joint patrols were expected to be a regular occurrence moving forward, had apparently changed its policy toward Israel”.
Tuesday, 22 February
“Israeli” news website, News1, published an article also before the battle, exploring the impact the imminent crisis will have on “Israel”. The article started by stating that “Israel will not be able to maintain neutrality and will have to side with Washington, while maintaining a channel of dialogue with Moscow”. According to the article, all countries of the region, not just “Israel”, are “interested in maintaining as neutral a position as possible and avoiding taking a position and choosing a side”. The article goes on that “despite the understanding that the US is reducing its involvement in the Middle East, most countries in the region still see good relations with the US administration as a key pillar in their security perception. On the other hand, expanding military ties and advancing deals for the purchase of Russian weapons, beyond Russia’s deep involvement in the war in Syria”.
According to this article, the Ukraine crisis has implications at three levels: global, regional, and “its closest neighbor to the north” -- meaning Syria. About the latter, the article says that “a US response to a Russian offensive in Ukraine… is likely to have negative consequences for Israel. As part of Russia’s response to US allies, it is possible that Moscow will cut off Russian-Israeli operational coordination as well as try to thwart Israeli attacks in Syria”.
The article concludes with recommendations, which in essence all lean towards the same idea that the relationship with the West, especially the US, is the more important one for “Israel”, and concludes with saying “Israel must expand its efforts to establish its relations with the countries of the region and send them positive messages, in order to prepare for the possibility of internal shocks in them and in order to prevent a setback in the normalization process. This will also send a message to the United States that not only is Israel on the right side, but it is working to establish a regional front that supports its policies”.
An article in Middle East Eye, one of the many western media outlets that also talked about this topic extensively, specifically looked at the fears “Israel” has with regards to US sanctions on Russia and how that would affect its operations in Syria. The article notes that while “Israel” has good relations with the US (and the West in general), Russia, and Ukraine, “several Israeli officials said that if they had to choose between the two sides, Russia or the US, they would have to side with Washington”. The article quoted an “Israeli” minister, who said “our heart is in the direction of the United States”.
Wednesday, 23 February
The Jerusalem Post published an article which presented an overview of “Israel’s” role in Syria in the context of its relationship with Russia, and how it had generally deteriorated over time. In this context, the article points out that “Israel is close to its Gulf partners and the US, but that Syria is a huge issue” for it -- meaning, it would difficult for “Israel” to publicly and completely take the US’s side against Russia, due to the importance of the Syria issue.
While a link is not directly made with the Ukraine issue, the article makes the comparison based on the Syria experience on why “Israel” needs to be cautious in the way it approaches Ukraine, with the same parameters: close to the US / West, but has important issues involving Russia.
Yedioth Ahronot reported that after consultations among top officials, including the prime minister and the foreign minister, “Foreign Ministry issued its first official position in support of Ukraine – but without condemning Russia’s actions” (On February 24, the “Israeli” MFA published the official statement, condemning the attacks, but without direct condemnation of Russia or the Russian president. The same day, during a speech at a graduation ceremony of officers for the occupation military, “Israeli” Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett mentioned the crisis in Ukraine, calling for dialogue that leads to a resolution, but did not mention Russia once).
Similar messages were relayed by Bennett’s office. In this regard, and “according to a political source, the statement was made after a dialogue with the Americans on the issue, and there was no American demand for explicit Israeli condemnation of Russia”. Additionally, “senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Staff (National Security Council) participated in the discussions, with the aim of drafting a statement that would not anger Russia – a power that its absolute influence on Syria forces Israel to act in full coordination with”.
It is worth noting that during a Security Council meeting on February 23, on the question of Palestine, the Russian UN representative strongly criticized “Israeli” actions in Palestine and against Palestinians, and “expressed concern about Tel Aviv’s plan to expand settlement activities in the Golan Heights” and added that Russia “does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over that area, which forms an integral part of Syria”. This was also tweeted by the Russian Mission to the UN.
Thursday, 24 February
During the first day of the military phase of the crisis, there was a plethora of articles and analyses, many of which focused on the link to the region and Syria specifically. The following are a few of the many articles published this day.
An article in Haaretz linked the statement supporting Ukraine with the Syrian crisis, which as noted above, i.e., the statement: “refrained from mentioning Russia or President Putin”. The article goes on to say that “Israel has an interest in maintaining neutrality in order to prevent a conflict that would it difficult to continue its attacks in Syria, where Russia has a military presence”.
The Jerusalem Post published an article titled “War in Ukraine won’t stop Israel’s war-between-wars in Syria”, in which it looked at the most recent “Israeli” attacks in Syria. The article then goes on to note that “with the tensions rising between Moscow, Kyiv and the West, [Israel] has been extremely pragmatic in deciding how it responds to the crisis. But Israel understands that it cannot stop its military action against Hezbollah and Iran”.
Looking at possible consequences of a clearer position, the article notes that “while it is unlikely that Russian forces in Syria would intercept Israeli jets or missiles, Moscow could turn a blind eye to Iranian and Hezbollah actions in the country. They might even allow Syrian troops to operate the advanced S-300 and S-400 missile defense batteries that until now were manned by Russian troops”.
Another article, also published by The Jerusalem Post, talked about how the “Israeli” occupation army “will be keeping a close eye on [Ukraine] in order to learn what they might face in a future war on its northern front, where Syrian forces have been trained by and received military aid from Russia”. The article concludes by saying that “while Israel’s military will very likely watch Europe’s war from the sidelines, it will watch it closely. It will study… all the military power being used by both sides, in order to better prepare for the next war”.
In an interview with Srugim, an “Israeli” media outlet, Natan Sharansky touches on the Ukraine subject and links it to Syria. As background, Sharansky is an “Israeli” politician, who was arrested and imprisoned in Soviet prisons for 9 years for charges including high treason and spying for several Americans. In the interview, he criticizes Bennett’s statement on the Ukraine issue, saying “obviously we are limited because of Syria and the friendship with Ukraine…. Yes, there is a political interest here, but we cannot avoid our moral stance”. He adds “the reality of the Russian presence in Syria is very problematic. For a start it is very problematic. There is no doubt that if we did not have the border, we could have behaved with Ukraine in a completely different way.”
Friday, 25 February
“The Times of Israel” published an article that started by noting that “[Israel is] torn by desire to stand with key allies in condemning invasion, but also very wary of antagonizing Moscow, which plays a key military role across Israel’s northern border”. This leads to asking what to do: “side with the Western ethos that Israel has embraced since its inception, or mind the Russian behemoth that looms on Israel’s doorstep, in Syria?” One of the commentaries notes that “Russia controls the airspace in Syria, and Israel sees the need to continue to conduct operations in Syria… and it needs at a minimum tacit approval from the Kremlin. So, it will find that its hands are tied, so long as it prioritizes these military operations”.
The article notes past occasions where “Israel” tried to be pragmatic with Russia, like “in 2014, when the US spurred a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, Israel absented itself, breaking its practice of voting with the US even on the most obscure issues”.
Interestingly, another article in “The Times of Israel” published today, reported that “despite a request from the Biden administration to back a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel refrained from doing so”. In the end, 81 countries signed on to the resolution as co-sponsors, but the resolution failed to pass in the Security Council, as it was vetoed by Russia and China abstained. The article describes “Israel’s” relationship with the two sides in an interesting, but very much telling way: “Israel is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, as well as Russia, which controls the airspace over Syria”.
Saturday, 26 February
Worth noting is a matter that was reported by several media outlets, including an article published in “The Times of Israel”, regarding a post by the Ukrainian Embassy in “Israel” calling on people to volunteer to fight against Russia. The post was later deleted.
Despite “Israel’s” desperate attempts to portray itself in a Western position, of course, but relatively neutral towards Russia, the escalation of the Western-Russian contradiction narrows, with every additional hour, the margins within which the occupation entity is trying to play. All the media and political games through which “Israel” seeks to portray itself as a “normal state”, balancing its international relations according to its interests, are quickly trampled under the wheels of reality and truth. “Israel”, as in essence a Western and colonial project, and with the escalation of the contradiction, cannot be otherwise, and consequently, it cannot reveal to the public its alignment that is already know to all, i.e., its Western alignment, particularly within the American-British camp, which today plays the most vicious role in facing Russia. All of this, of course, will not pass without major effects and major impacts on the situation in Syria.