(January 25, 2023 / JNS) For the last 11 months, Israel has sought to signal its opposition to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine while avoiding being dragged into a war that compromises its own security and interests. Threading that needle has been a difficult task, but it was an issue on which both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political foe—Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid—have been in agreement.
Nevertheless, Israel is now being made to pay a steep price for the war. The news, broken last week by The New York Times, that the U.S. is emptying the strategic reserve of arms and ammunition it has stored in Israel for Middle East emergencies, as well as for the Jewish state to draw on in the event of its being attacked, marks a turning point.
Should a conflict with either Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon break out at the behest of Iran, or, in a nightmare strategic scenario, with both simultaneously, consequences for the Israel Defense Forces could be serious.
Israel has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including a temporary field hospital on the Polish border when the fighting in that region was at its height. It also has taken in refugees and provided intelligence to the Ukrainians.
But with Russia occupying part of neighboring Syria and granting Israel overflight rights to strike Iranian and other terrorist targets, the Jewish state needs to avoid a conflict with Moscow. Similarly, with Russia’s remaining Jewish population essentially being hostages held by President Vladimir Putin, Israel has every reason to remain neutral.
It nevertheless should stick to its refusal to be drawn into a conflict that has unknowable consequences for its security. Biden’s helping to escalate a war that he should be trying to end won’t lead to a Ukrainian victory. What it will do, like his unsuccessful efforts to appease Iran, is make the Middle East an even more dangerous place for Israel and other U.S. allies.