Ukraine: Three Reasons for Israel to Find a New Sandbox

Al Silonov, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Russia today is the crazy kid in the sandbox. The one that throws things, plays with cat poop, and pulls wings off flies. It’s time to pick up our toys and find another place to play.

Here’s the truth, and you might not like it: I was totally OK with Israel’s vague Ukrainian policy until very recently.

I was OK ignoring Zelensky’s sometimes offensive attempts to call us out. I was OK with us not opening our doors to a flood of Ukrainian refugees – beyond the Jews whom we are unquestionably obligated to take in as a Jewish state. I was OK with us supplying humanitarian aid and keeping mum about the whys of the endeavor – as if the wounded treated in the IDF field hospital in Poland just happened along. La de da, no connection to the war whatsoever. Nope, not us.

I’m not taking a moral stance here, because international relations are inherently amoral. I’m a firm believer in realpolitik. I don’t believe it’s a right or wrong, moral or immoral ethos – rather that it exists. It’s how nations work, no matter how smartly they try to cover their actions with shiny ideological or moral wrapping paper.

And the fact is that previously, it simply was not in Israel’s national interests to openly support Kyiv. But now, it is. Here’s why:

    1. The North Koreanization of Russia is in high gear. In the absence of an impending palace coup in the Kremlin, Russia is barreling at breakneck speed straight down the Kim Il-sung expressway in a rusty Lada with bad brakes.

The Russian imperial sun – if there ever was such a thing in modern times – has set. I’m not sure we’re going to be facing a strong interventionist Russian sphere of influence in our region in the coming decades, if ever again. Putin has permanently weakened the nation and the military such that we have far less to fear from Russia today than we did a year ago.

This does not mean we don’t need to be careful. Russia today is the crazy kid in the sandbox. The one that throws things, plays with cat poop, pulls wings off flies. You don’t know what he’s going to do next.

But let’s face it: the botched military callup, the ongoing brain drain, the global economic isolation, the fanatic crackdown on individual freedoms…all this was bad enough. But Iranian suicide drones and nuclear threats credible enough to get the US gaming possible response scenarios? Uh-uh. It’s time to pick up our toys and quietly move to the next sandbox over. We don’t wanna play here with the crazy kid any longer.

    1. We’re not a superpower and nobody actually needs us. Barring a deus ex machina plot twist, things will likely get worse before they get better in Ukraine. I would not be surprised to ultimately see NATO boots on the ground. When and if this happens, we can count on the US and the EU to remember who had their backs in the critical months leading up to the deterioration of the crisis.

We’re also less than a month before US midterm elections. In the event that the Democrats win big in November – and even if they don’t – it would be better to visibly reaffirm our committment to the West now, before the hammer falls.

Here’s the thing: traditional Western energy interests in the Middle East, and the resulting strategic involvement, are waning. Yet we remain an island of Western culture, polity, and economy. We still need the support of the liberal democratic community – or at least some good old lukewarm indifference and trade. We’ve also got this kind of unpopular Occupation thing bubbling at a slow boil, even though many of us prefer to ignore it. Why give our many detractors in Europe and elsewhere, whatever their true motivations, one more reason to detract?

    1. There’s a recession coming and we’ve got goods to sell. Sorry to be the capitalist in the room, but we’ve got both offensive and (especially) defensive systems that Kyiv needs yesterday. We’ll also shortly have a lot of gas to sell. The US, and in short order the EU, both have checkbooks open and pens in figurative hands.

I am absolutely not suggesting we take advantage in any way of the horrific humanitarian crisis that the war in Ukraine represents. Please re-read the previous sentence to make sure it’s clear: Me. NOT suggesting.

However, Israel is a small economy on a small, overcrowded piece of land in a large world that’s headed for large recession. Just like we did in our relations with apartheid South Africa and the Shah’s Iran, we need to make hay while the sun shines. I have no doubt that Israeli-made weapons have already found their roundabout ways to the battlefields of Ukraine already. But it’s time to open the spigots and start giving the Ukrainians what they need. And, by the way, Iron Dome and our other defensive missile systems could be saving a LOT of lives tomorrow, once operational.

The Bottom Line

I don’t take crossing Moscow lightly. And everyone knows that a wounded bear is at its most dangerous. But I think it’s time to reevaluate where the actual danger may come from, and where our current strategic interests will take us. The sands have shifted, and the self-destructive Russia we see today is nobody’s future at this point – hardly even its own. Why are we still protecting our association with it?

About the Author
Steven Greenberg is an award-winning novelist (see , a professional writer (see, and a full-time cook, cleaner, chauffeur and single dad for three young adults (see his dishpan hands). Born in Texas, Steven grew up in Indiana and emigrated to Israel just months before the first Gulf War in 1990. He's a former combat medic in the Israel Defense Forces, who never learned to properly salute despite his rank of Sergeant. And he's a career marketer, who's run a home-grown marketing boutique since 2002.
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