“We know that you know how to protect your interests, to protect Ukrainians and the Jews of Ukraine,” Zelensky said in the 15-minute speech on Sunday, broadcast from his bunker in Kyiv. “But we ask why we don’t receive weapons from you, why you haven’t applied sanctions against Russia and Russian companies. You will have to give answers and be able to live with those answers.
He said that February 24, the start of the war in Ukraine, would be “remembered twice in the history of the world, as a tragedy for Ukrainians, Jews, Europeans and the whole world. On February 24, 1920, the Nazi Party was founded, killing millions of people, destroying entire countries, attempting to commit genocide.
More than 100 Knesset members have registered for the videoconference. The live video stream was also projected onto the facade of Tel Aviv’s Habima Theater, in coordination with the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel, and was greeted with cheers of “Slava Ukraini” or “Glory to the Ukraine! of hundreds of protesters raising blue and yellow Ukrainian flags.
Zelensky has broadcast speeches to several foreign legislatures in recent weeks, including the US Congress, the UK House of Commons and the German Bundestag.
On Sunday, fighting between the two sides neared a stalemate as Russian forces stepped up their bombardment of civilian areas, shelling an art school that housed 400 people, officials said in the coastal town of Mariupol, in the southeast of the country.
Israeli Culture Minister Hili Tropper told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday that “at the end of the day, we are not confused: Zelensky and the Ukrainian people are the victims here.”
But Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett offered to mediate in the dispute, citing Israel’s warm ties with Ukraine and Russia. Zelensky, who is Jewish and lost his family in the Holocaust, has traveled to Israel several times to see relatives and performed in Israeli clubs during his previous acting career. Israel has also unofficially coordinated for years with Putin and representatives of Russia’s major military operation on its northern border with Syria, which has granted the Israeli military freedom to strike targets there that Russia says , are involved in the transfer of weapons to its enemy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon. .
Last week, as plans for Zelensky’s speech were being finalized, Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov asked Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy to allow Russian lawmakers to brief their counterparts Israelis with “objective information and Russia’s approaches to current events,” said a statement released by the Russian Embassy.
Bennett has avoided referring to Putin or Russia by name, while Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has, in coordination with the government, directly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We will continue to help the people of Ukraine as much as possible and we will never turn our backs on the plight of people who know the horrors of war,” Lapid tweeted Sunday after Zelensky’s speech.
During a visit to Slovakia last week, Lapid also pledged that “Israel will not be a way around the sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries.”
Israel has not formally signed off on Western sanctions against Russia or specified what it will do to enforce them, particularly in the case of a number of high-level oligarchs who hold Israeli passports. On March 14, former Chelsea Football Club manager Roman Abramovich, who has both Russian and Israeli nationality and is now under sanctions, was photographed in the VIP departure lounge at Ben Gurion Airport of Israel, a day after his private jet landed there.
Israel has rejected requests to send military equipment to Ukraine, instead airlifting 100 tons of humanitarian and medical aid earlier this month. This week, the government is due to open a field hospital in the eastern Ukrainian town of Mostyska, near the border with Poland.
After weeks of bureaucratic hurdles discouraging Ukrainian refugees – mostly women and children coming to live with relatives among the estimated 1 million Israeli citizens who have roots in the former Soviet Union – Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked reversed previous policies allowing entry to only 5,000 non-Jewish refugees.
Last week, she said an unlimited number of Ukrainians with relatives in the country would be allowed to stay “for a month or two to rest” but would have to sign a statement saying they don’t have intend to stay.
“Our people are migrating now, just as you migrated before,” Zelensky said in his Sunday speech, which reiterated the message that Israel, as a country founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust, has a unique responsibility to support more actively Ukraine.
“Indifference kills. Calculations kill,” he said. “It is possible to mediate between countries, but not between good and evil.”