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Is Israel Quietly Moving Closer To Russia?

The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel says the current Israeli government is inching closer to Russia, while doing nothing to help Ukraine. A look at what may be driving the shift.

Front, Yevhen Korniychuk

Yevhen Korniychuk, Ukraine's ambassador to Israel speaking to journalists in Tel Aviv on March 7, 2022

Oleksandr Demchenko


KYIV — While the whole world was discussing the attempted coup by Wagner Group mercenaries in Russia, the Ukrainian embassy in Israel said in a statement that the Israeli government was moving toward closer cooperation with Russia.

"The Embassy of Ukraine in Israel regrets that the current government of Israel has chosen the path of close cooperation with the Russian Federation. Many scandalous events have taken place since the beginning of 2023, and the almost complete absence of humanitarian aid to Ukraine," the official statement said.

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Ukrainian ambassador Yevhen Korniychuk said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's interview with the influential Jerusalem Post was the last straw. In the interview, Netanyahu said Israel has chosen not to transfer weapons to Ukraine for several reasons: first, he mentioned the "close military border with Russia," and that Israeli pilots fly alongside Russian pilots in the skies of Syria. He also hinted that communication with Russia allows Israeli forces to counter Iran more effectively.

But the statement which provoked Ukrainian protest was Netanyahu's assertion that the weapons Western allies have provided to Ukraine, including anti-tank systems, have ended up in the hands of Iran.

"We have fears that any systems we give Ukraine will be used against us, because they can fall into Iranian hands. And by the way, this is not a theoretical possibility. This happened with Western anti-tank weapons that we now find near our borders. That's why we must be cautious here," Netanyahu said.

The Ukrainian embassy responded with a critical statement: "The systems transferred to us could not have ended up in Iranian hands. Why should Ukraine provide weapons to Iran, if this country is fighting us? Only a year ago, the United States withdrew from Afghanistan and left a lot of weapons there that could fall into Iran's hands illegally," said Yevhen Korniychuk. "Suppose someone is afraid to provide Ukraine with weapons. In that case, they can follow the example of their American and European colleagues, who have long been transferring certain weapons to us and monitoring their location in real time. The U.S. or Ukraine's European allies have never recorded an illegal transfer from our side."

Russia-linked scandals

For several months now, the Israeli government has made some unusual courtesies toward Russia. Not long ago, two senior officials from the country's Foreign Ministry visited Moscow to hold talks with Russian officials on strategic issues, including the Iranian threat. Israel does not want Russia to strengthen its principal enemy, Iran. But it is worth recalling that Tehran and Moscow have long been working in tandem, even during the war on Ukraine. Strangely, there is no permanent strategic dialogue on Iran with Ukraine, which is countering Iranian drones, has imposed sanctions on this state for 50 years and is talking about recognizing Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

Russia is gradually strengthening its position in Israel.

On Russia Day, many Israeli officials visited the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv, where Russian Ambassador Viktorov spoke about the fight against "Ukrainian neo-Nazis." Interestingly, this event took place on property used by the Russian Orthodox Church and security forces for money laundering. It is also significant that the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli Foreign Ministry recently agreed to transfer a disputed facility to Russian ownership, and in return, Moscow promised to open a consulate in Jerusalem within five years.

This demonstrates how Russia is gradually strengthening its position in Israel. It is worth recalling that in 2019, Ukraine wanted to open an innovation office in Jerusalem, but the proposal was never realized. At the same time, Israel does not support the Crimean Platform, and sometimes opposes Ukraine's initiatives at the UN.

There are more serious problems: first, Israel does not support sanctions against Russia and is generally increasing trade relations with Russia, and second, is distancing itself from providing military assistance to Ukraine.

Sources in the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry explained: "Tel Aviv is slowing down the provision of early warning systems to Ukraine, which would help signal an attack by Russian missiles or Iranian drones in advance. Israel promises to supply the necessary software by September, although it is not yet certain that it will do so."

Nevertheless, Ambassador Korniychuk says that "The key task now is not to convince Israel to help Ukraine, but to prevent it from finally moving to Russia's side."

Israel's position

Photo of Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin 2020 meeting

A file photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2020 in Moscow.

Mikhail Metzel/TASS/ZUMA

Ukraine does not understand why Israel is so lenient with Russia, and why Netanyahu says that his government's approach to Ukraine is balanced, when Kyiv does not think so. Ukrainians also do not understand why Israel does not want to counter Iran together, as the head of the President's Office, Andriy Yermak, pointed out in an interview with the Times of Israel.

"No one but Israel can provide equipment to combat Iranian drone attacks... We see the Kremlin dictator taking family photos with Iranian leaders, and then an Iranian weapon is used against you and us. I don't know what else is needed... I can't understand why we have had the pleasure of hosting so many world leaders in Ukraine so far but not the Prime Minister of Israel," Yermak said.

Israel has sided with Ukraine from the beginning of the war.

Following the Ukrainian embassy's protest, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that "despite the difficulties with Russia, Israel has sided with Ukraine from the beginning of the war, has publicly supported its territorial integrity and sovereignty, and has even voted in international forums for resolutions condemning Russia. Israel has sent unprecedented humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and these days it is sending early warning systems that will help save civilian lives."

Indeed, Israel has been helping Ukraine with rehabilitation, providing free support to Ukrainian children with cancer and sending humanitarian aid. Ukrainians are undoubtedly grateful to the Israelis for this. But according to sources in the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv, the Israeli government still does not want to hand over documents, including reports showing how much money was spent and where it went as part of the aid to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Minister Cohen summoned Ambassador Korniychuk to his office but, for some reason, scheduled the meeting for the following Monday. At the same time, according to the publication Axios, at a closed meeting with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees, the same foreign minister said that Netanyahu was positive about planning a visit to Ukraine. Therefore, the story is likely to continue.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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