Vitalii Portnikov

President Zelensky’s visit to Israel

The impending visit of Ukraine’s President to Israel, scheduled for the upcoming week, may very well be deemed one of the most pivotal political events in recent memory. It distinguishes itself from the typical visits by prominent Western leaders to the Jewish state as it encompasses more than a mere demonstration of support and solidarity. This visit is unique as it comes from the leader of a nation currently grappling with the throes of war and bearing the heavy burden of civilian casualties. President Volodymyr Zelenskyi promptly proposed this visit to Israel following a devastating terrorist attack on Israeli soil. Though somewhat delayed, the visit retains its relevance.

Furthermore, it is pertinent to recall that since the commencement of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, none of Israel’s top leaders have reciprocated with a visit to Ukraine. This absence has sparked surprise on the global stage and incurred the disapproval of Ukrainian society. President Zelensky’s visit serves as a resounding affirmation that Ukraine’s foreign policy is rooted in values and an unwavering commitment to human life and security, rather than embroiled in diplomatic slights.

The recent Hamas assault on Israel has unequivocally underscored certain realities. It has shed light on Russia’s stance on this matter and the subsequent diplomatic ramifications. This assault disrupted the regional cooperation between Russia and Israel, an aspect the Israeli government previously sought to safeguard. It has cast Russia into the role of one of Israel’s sternest critics within the United Nations. All this, even prior to President Zelensky’s visit, has provoked substantial shifts in Israeli foreign policy concerning Russia.

Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, made a notable statement. “It is quite ironic,” Erdan asserted, “to hear a representative from Russia lecturing us on matters of morality, human rights, and international law. Russia, a nation expelled from the UN Human Rights Council, presumes to offer moral guidance. Russia stands among the least qualified to impart such lessons.” The stark and forthright tone of this exchange between Israeli officials and Russian diplomats is an unusual departure from past diplomatic exchanges. It reflects the line the Israeli government is now poised to uphold.

The forthcoming visit of Ukraine’s President to Israel might subsequently lead to Israel being designated as yet another “unfriendly state” by Moscow. However, at this juncture, does such a designation hold any real significance when Russia itself openly exhibits hostility towards Israel? The Kremlin’s deepening relations with Iran and its recent hosting of a Hamas delegation in Moscow following the horrific attack on Israeli civilians underscore Russia’s incompatibility as a security partner.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is increasingly evolving into a significant partner for Israel. This is especially salient in a climate where both nations share a interest in supporting the civilized world, with the United States as a central focal point. In this context, the emphasis lies not on competition but rather on the consolidation of efforts and narratives. This vision aligns with the sentiments articulated by US President Joe Biden in his address to the nation following the attack on Israel.

Hence, the upcoming visit by Ukraine’s President to Israel is poised to serve as a crucial stride towards the realization of this collective endeavor.

About the Author
Vitalii Portnikov is a Ukrainian publicist, writer, TV presenter and member of the Ukrainian PEN. He is also an author and renowned journalist working in democratic media in Central and Eastern Europe for more than three decades. He is the author of hundreds of analytical articles in Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Russian, Israeli, Baltic media. He hosts television programs and his own analytical channels on YouTube. He is currently broadcasting at the office of the Espreso TV channel and continues to cooperate with the Ukrainian and Russian services of Radio Liberty.