Axios has revealed in a Wednesday report that the Biden administration last week urged Israel to begin giving Ukraine direct military aid. Israel has sought thus far during the Russian invasion to portray itself as neutral, up to this point refusing requests from Ukrainian leadership for Israeli weapons.
However, it was only last month that Israel agreed to send what were perhaps merely symbolic shipments of helmets and bulletproof vests, which were described as for use by first responders, and not Ukraine's armed forces.
At the moment Ukraine is reportedly seeking Israeli military communications gear and anti-drone systems, according to Axios. Tel Aviv has long sought to be careful about not angering Russia, given the two countries' interests butt up against each other inside Syria, and relatedly Israel needs Russia's help on the issue of Iranian influence and expansion in the region.
So far the Israelis are said to be mulling the possibility of only providing nonlethal military aid - as they come under pressure from Washington.
According to details offered in the Axios report, "Israel last week sent Dror Shalom, the head of the political-military bureau at the Ministry of Defense, to Ramstein Air Base in Germany for a U.S.-led meeting on sending weapons to Ukraine."
US officials communicated understanding of Israel's delicate position vis-a-vis its Russian relations:
- The Biden administration made it clear to the Israelis that the U.S. understands its complicated situation with Russia and appreciates what it has done so far in terms of aid to Ukraine, but hopes it could do more in providing military equipment, U.S. and Israeli officials said.
- This message was delivered during a meeting between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata, at the White House last week and in conversations between the Pentagon and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Meanwhile, there's the possibility that Baltic countries in possession of Israeli weapons systems could be given the greenlight to transfer them to Kiev.
#Israel 🇮🇱 did not prohibit #Estonia 🇪🇪 from transferring its weapons to third countries, including #Ukraine 🇺🇦 including Blue Spear anti-ship missiles. Now the possibility being explored by the parties. pic.twitter.com/REKhleNJkr— Skipper (@Grumpy__Skipper) May 4, 2022
The timing of the above revelations could prove further awkward given the report comes amidst a worsening Israel-Russia diplomatic spat, following Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov speculating that Adolf Hitler may have had "Jewish Blood".
This has led to Israel demanding an official apology and retraction of the statement, which appeared intended by Lavrov to deflect when pressed on why President Putin has repeatedly said Ukraine is in the grip of neo-Nazis when its president Volodymyr Zelensky is himself Jewish. Moscow has so far refused to apologize or have Lavrov walk back the comments which came during an interview with an Italian newspaper.