August 18, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come to Kyiv with a mission of smoking the pipe of peace between Ukraine and Russia. The visit of the politician will take place on. Three weeks before the date, July 30, Netanyahu met with Israeli bloggers and outlined the purpose of the visit to Ukraine. He said that he could become a mediator for a peaceful settlement in relations between Ukraine and Russia. When one of the journalists reminded the prime minister of the neutrality that Israel adheres to in matters of Ukrainian-Russian relations, Netanyahu said that in general, he was not too informed about the details of the war in the Ukrainian east. And despite the lack of information, the politician still hopes to contribute to the peace.
"Everything is complicated" status
No matter how strange the words of Netanyahu might sound, his arrival is an advantage. Ukrainian-Israeli relations can be called restrained, if not cool. The pause in the summits is also indicative: the Israeli Prime Minister has not been to Kyiv for 20 years. And the visit of Reuven Rivlin, the president of this country, in 2016 was not that smooth: when holding a speech in the Verkhovna Rada, Rivlin accused the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists of involvement in the Holocaust. Then-Speaker Andriy Parubiy was forced to take the floor and stand up for his compatriots.
Netanyahu would have a one-day visit, during which he will hold talks with Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukrainian president should once again recall the golden words of English Prime Minister Lord Palmerston that Britain has neither eternal enemies, nor eternal friends, but only eternal interests. Netanyahu’s personal interest now lies in winning the Knesset national elections scheduled for September 17 (with his Likud party).
Unlike the Zelensky party, which is quite capable of claiming a mono-majority, Likud and Netanyahu were unable to form a coalition after the April elections. Benjamin Netanyahu decided to make a set on the “Russian street” and make a couple of reverence towards Putin in search of additional electoral support. International observers believe that the Israeli prime minister makes a mistake and begs for defeat, although, in the end, this is his own choice. For Ukraine, it matters only that his visit to Kyiv is obviously taking place as part of the Netanyahu election campaign.
The situation for the Israeli prime minister is further complicated by the fact that he is accused of corruption. If Netanyahu loses the election and loses immunity, he will go to jail. The Palestinian question also adds fuel to the fire, which. The US would not be happy with Netanyahu’s victory, as Trump also plays a peacemaker’s role and has his own plan for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The election of Netanyahu promises to bury this plan, so Washington is likely to want the current Israeli prime minister to lose the election.
The wrong league
Lebanese outlet Al Modon published an interesting article on Netanyahu's election campaign. An article titled “Putin is Israel’s new hero” says that the Prime Minister went all out, placing a giant banner in Tel Aviv, where Putin and Netanyahu are shaking hands in the photo. The banner has the slogan "In a different league", which, obviously, must be understood so that the Israeli Prime Minister is part of a special, privileged club of world leaders. Like Putin.
Everyone agrees, the article says that with such a trick, the current government is trying to get as many votes as possible from Russian-speaking Israelis, and there are from 1.5 to 2 million of them. In the April elections, Netanyahu was able to enlist the support of only 150,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Not bad, but Netanyahu is far from his closest rivals. His opponent, the leader of the right-wing party, Our Home Is Israel party leader, Avigdor Lieberman has long relied on Russian-speakers, successfully processing this electoral field. Beni Ganz, the head of the Kahol-Lavan alliance, who also campaigns among Russian-speaking people, focuses on the religious circles of the diaspora and works in a similar direction.
Netanyahu’s attempts to jump in are obvious, but experts say that he is unlikely to achieve anything using such methods. Most likely, he will only lose his support. The reason is that Russian-speaking citizens of Israel have a negative attitude towards Putin. He is completely unpleasant to them, and this dislike has especially affected after the outbreak of war. Many people ended up in the Promised Land after moving from the Ukrainian SSR or from independent Ukraine. These people are unhappy with the way the Kremlin acted with their former homeland. Such voters are unlikely to vote for Netanyahu because of his closeness to Putin. And even more: some of them have already taken to small protests in Tel Aviv.
Russia recognizes the futility of Netanyahu’s attempts to play on Putin’s card. The publication Communitarian.ru quotes the words of Russian political scientist Karine Gevorgyan, who says that "the majority of Russian-speakers in Israel are pro-Ukrainian." Gevorgyan recalls: in addition to posters with Putin, Netanyahu prudently stocked up and visual agitation with Trump. Netanyahu posted a 38-second video, where both posters and footage from meetings with Putin and Trump are clearly visible.
נתניהו. ליגה אחרת. pic.twitter.com/07YGtjfXwL— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 28, 2019
But in the end, Netanyahu only achieved the fact that posts began to appear in the Israeli segment of the Internet with dissatisfaction with the Likud’s election tactics. Many did not like Netanyahu’s idea to use the image of the Russian president in the electoral racing. Leftist outlets, traditionally critical of Likud, reminded about Russian aggression in Ukraine and the violation of human rights in Russia. There was even a spontaneous protest rally by representatives of the Russian-speaking community of Israel that recognized the banner as inappropriate — especially after the recent events in Moscow, where the police harshly dispersed the rally demanding the registration of independent candidates for the Moscow City Duma.
Between two Volodymyrs
Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly emphasized that his frequent meetings with Vladimir Putin are aimed at realizing Israeli interests in the region - for example, coordinating actions with the Russian military in Syria, where Israel occasionally strikes at the infrastructure of the Shiite pro-Iranian Hezbollah group and Iran. For some reason, even various military incidents (such as the fall of the Russian Il-20 during an attempt by the Syrian air defense to repel an Israeli missile attack) do not interfere with this "friendship". The Israeli-Russian idyll is not spoiled by regular visits to Moscow by representatives of the Hamas group.
Netanyahu was one of the few world leaders who attended the celebration of Victory Day in Moscow in 2018. Putin accepted the invitation of the Israeli PMto come to Israel to open a memorial in Jerusalem to the victims of the siege of Leningrad.
In short, the relationship between the two politicians is almost perfect. They are in their own “league.” Only one thing remains unclear: how to explain Netanyahu’s relations with Zelensky?
The only thing known about the program for the upcoming visit is that both leaders are preparing to pay tribute to the victims of Nazism in Babyn Yar. Newsru.co.il writes about this. Most likely, this would be a pure protocol meeting – without any significant consequences.
No less interesting is the program of action, which Zelensky would present. The issue of the war with Russia, to which Netanyahu has sentiment, obviously, cannot but be raised during the bilateral negotiations between the two leaders. But is Zelensky ready for such a diplomatic test?