Первое правило ямы – перестань копать. I explain the First Rule of Holes in Russian (via the imprecise nature of Google Translate) to start out because apparently Sergei Lavrov and Vladimir Putin have yet to learn it in English. After the Russian foreign minister tried to make the ludicrous claim that Volodymyr Zelensky could be a Jewish Nazi because Hitler was Jewish, Israel angrily demanded a retraction and an apology.
Instead, Lavrov doubled down on stupid today by accusing Israel of supporting Nazis:
Russia took a step further Tuesday in its escalating row with Israel by claiming that the country’s leadership supported the “neo-Nazi regime” in Ukraine.
In an 800-word essay, the Russian Foreign Ministry doubled down on controversial remarks made earlier by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Jewish origins are “not a guarantee against rampant neo-Nazism in the country.”
It provided isolated examples of cooperation between Jewish collaborators and Nazis during the Holocaust years.
The current government in Jerusalem had already come under pressure to end its position of neutrality on Ukraine in the wake of Lavrov’s first remarks. The Leftist media outlet Ha’aretz demanded robust action to fix the “moral flaw” of the “embarrassment of neutrality” in response to the initial claims:
Above and beyond the absurdity of the claim that the government of Ukraine – which is headed by a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and where Jews hold many key positions – is “Nazi,” the fact is that this accusation has long been heard as a way of justifying the Russian invasion and systematic war crimes. It testifies to the character of the Russian regime and those who head it, even before Lavrov made his remarks.
The condemnation voiced by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is too little, too late; They ignore the fact that Lavrov is the faithful spokesman of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
The myth that has been cultivated for many years by oligarchs, by those close to the Kremlin and by populist politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu to the effect that Putin really is a friend of Israel and “good for the Jews” should have been exploded a long time ago. …
Of condemnations, there is no end. Israel can rescue itself from the embarrassment of “neutrality” it has adopted and join its allies in the West by imposing economic sanctions on Russia and supplying arms to Ukraine, which is heroically countering the Russian invasion.
The double down by Lavrov comes at the same time that the Bennett government is considering stepping up transfers of weapons systems to Ukraine:
Israeli officials are set to discuss expanding aid to Ukraine, including supplies of defensive military equipment so far withheld by Jerusalem, according to a report Tuesday.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Israel has rejected requests from Kyiv and the West for military equipment such as anti-missile batteries, and only recently agreed to send helmets and flak jackets to civilian rescue and medical forces, part of a policy meant to preserve ties with Russia. Instead it has sent some 100 tons of humanitarian aid and set up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks.
However, Israeli officials are now expected to support sending Ukraine military aid, albeit at symbolic levels, and still with hopes of keeping its relationship with Russia intact, Haaretz reported Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.
According to a diplomatic official, Israel will not consider sending offensive arms or advanced defensive technology, such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system, but will attempt to find equipment that can be donated without sparking a crisis with Moscow.
Want to bet that changes after these latest remarks? For one thing, the official diplomatic insult is too blunt to ignore. For another, the hesitancy of Israel to pick a side in Ukraine came in significant part because of Russian forces in Syria. If those are just as incompetent as the forces in Ukraine, Israel has less to worry about. If they’re more competent, they’re likely to get deployed to the Donbas.
Time’s Charlie Campbell warns that this could radically change Israel’s relationship with Russia, to the denigration of their great-power games in the region:
“At the moment, the Russian political class has crossed the red line,” says Ilya Yablokov, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield and author of Anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in Putin’s Russia. “Basically, they have no limitations and can talk about whatever they want.” …
The U.S, E.U. and other Western nations have also been pressing Israel to take a firmer position against Russia. In February, Israel condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “violation of the world order” but has stopped short of condemning Russia itself, which holds enormous influence in neighboring Syria, while still allowing Israel freely conduct its own operations against Tehran-backed forces there. Lavrov’s comments may alter that relationship.
“Israel used to be a reliable partner for Russia,” says Yablokov. “But they have no reason to be loyal after these remarks. So strategically, it’s a big failure.”
It’s unclear whether Israeli sanctions would have any more bite than those in place from G-7 countries at the moment. To the extent that Israel offered any avenues of relief, however, Lavrov and Putin appear sanguine with burning those up to maintain their fiction of fighting Nazis rather than engaging in ethnocentric war on a campaign of territorial expansion. Which, of course, is exactly what the Nazis did … if we’re making comparisons.
By the way, Russia really needs all the friends they can get, because that sanctions noose is about to get tighter still:
Amidst the ongoing ruthless war in Ukraine, European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrel, warned that more Russian banks will be disconnected from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) payment system. Speaking to reporters in Panama, Borrell informed this without sharing specific details, “I cannot disclose the names or the number of the financial institutions now. And in the energy sector, we are looking for measures that would significantly affect the import of Russian oil,” he added, as per Sputnik. Notably, SWIFT is used by different financial institutions to send and receive information, such as instructions for cross-border money transfers.
According to Borrel, the EU Political and Security Committee is working on the sixth package of monetary sanctions against the Kremlin and he hoped it can be agreed upon at the upcoming meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. It was previously reported that the EU planned to impose a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year. The EU imposed five sets of sanctions against Russian individuals, organisations, the banking sector, and energy since the onset of the war on February 24.
Seems appropriate, as Lavrov and Putin are proving themselves none too swift these days anyway.
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