Why did Netanyahu visit Ukraine? / News / News agency Inforos
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Why did Netanyahu visit Ukraine?

It seems that for Zelensky the way to Washington lies through Jerusalem

Why did Netanyahu visit Ukraine?

During his tenure, the new Ukrainian President met with a considerable number of world leaders, but all the meetings took place in the course of his foreign trips. And preparations for the visit of a leader not representing the post-Soviet space and having more international weight than Ukraine itself, took exactly 2 months from the date of inauguration. On August 19, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to Kiev. Previously, Zelensky acted as a host only to Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu. But Chisinau and Jerusalem are located somewhat differently from Kiev...

Before this visit, Netanyahu was here in 1999, i. e. back in the last century. But why did he come to Ukraine again these very days? The prevailing theory is that the visit is brought about by his intention to gain greater support from those originally coming from that country in the upcoming Knesset elections on September 17. As for Zelensky, on the one hand, he seems to be glad to see any high-ranking guest – after all, there aren't going to be a lot of them until the new executive power is formed in Kiev. But on the other hand, Netanyahu's visit is reasonably important for him, because strengthened relations with the Jewish state may help improve relations with the United States, whose President has an obviously pro-Israeli position and where many Congressmen are concerned about manifestations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

I think the visit contributed to solving this problem. Thus, speaking at the Verkhovna Rada three years ago, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin devoted a large fragment of his speech to condemning the glorification of Nazi collaborators represented by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which annoyed many Ukrainian politicians.

This time, Netanyahu managed to do without such utterances. At the Babi Yar mourning ceremony, he only said that the Jews were killed by "the Nazis and their local collaborators" (without specifying any national and ideological characteristics of the latter), noted the courage of the Ukrainian righteous gentiles and thanked Zelensky for combating anti-Semitism. This contrast revealed that changes positive for the Jews are present in Ukraine. Indeed, during the country's recent presidential elections, the Jewish origin of the winner was not a subject for discussion. And Zelensky himself, who neither hides nor bulges the mentioned origin, and his closest associates can do without positively referring to activities of the OUN, in contrast to Poroshenko and his team.

The second moment important and for the USA is being actively covered in the Israeli press, but poorly in the Ukrainian. This is the parties' opening of offices for cooperation in the field of high technologies in Kiev and Jerusalem. At a briefing on the results of the talks Zelensky only said that the possible opening of such offices was discussed, while Netanyahu spoke about this as a resolved issue, as the Israeli press claims. The delicacy of the matter resides in the fact that these offices will be state institutions, and this appears as at least a partial recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which should be appreciated by Trump who relocated the US Embassy there.

After all, only the Czech Republic and Australia have such public offices, but not embassies, in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Post refers to the opening of this office as the first stage towards relocating the Ukrainian Embassy, with reasons for this kind of confidence still unclear. However, the parties openly said that Zelensky's visit to Jerusalem may take place in the nearest future. It is therefore possible that the Ukrainian office will be opened there before the election, which will clearly play into Netanyahu's hands.

As for the remaining issues, the parties often seemed to haven't heard each other. Thus, Zelensky thanked Israel for supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, "an unwavering stand on the war in the east of our country and the annexation of Crimea", called to recognize the Holodomor as genocide, claimed that Ukraine would learn from Israel in matters of security and defense and that issues of war and security Israel knows better than most, topped the agenda of his negotiations with Netanyahu. And the Israeli Prime Minister did not even mention these topics in his speeches. The silence is understandable.

Israel - regardless of its Prime Minister's name - upholds the idea of Holocaust's unparalleled nature (and recognizing the Holodomor as genocide will blur it). And Netanyahu himself, on the one hand, cannot make any gestures that would set Moscow on the alert and destroy the carefully built relations with Vladimir Putin, despite all the challenges in the Middle East. On the other hand, he cannot offer himself as a mediator to solve the Ukrainian crisis, not least because of internal conflicts.

Zelensky seems to be understanding all of this, while the relevant statements he has made are mainly intended for the internal audience. However, there is a more interesting thing. According to the Ukrainian President, both states that introduced a visa-free regime, agreed to finally solve the problem of denied Israeli border crossing to Ukrainian citizens. As for Netanyahu, there was no suggestion of this issue, although the parties – at another level – started discussing it back when Zelensky came to power. And the problem is rather sensitive. Many Ukrainians, including those who wanted to get to Israel as part of organized tourist groups, complained about the boorish behavior of the Israeli border guards.

Israel, in its turn, fears that a number of Ukrainian citizens who arrived on a visa-free arrangement, will seek to stay in the country forever, taking advantage of the fact that the deportation of illegal immigrants can linger on. The social media space was rich in reports that the parties had signed agreements suggesting that such illegal immigrants should be immediately transported to Ukraine as soon as they breached the terms of stay in Israel, and then Kiev itself would deny them the possibility of departure. However, the list of agreements signed during the visit, which is published on the websites of the President of Ukraine and the Prime Minister of Israel, does not include any document related to citizen trips.

No mutual understanding seems to have been reached here. However, these controversy is quite a minor thing amid the positive picture Netanyahu's visit can provide to Kiev in its relations with the United States.

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