Friday 10 June 2022

Vetoing Victory - Israel Is Blocking (Military) Aid To Ukraine

If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. (By Desmond Tutu)

Western countries have scrambled to provide the Ukrainian military with an expansive arsenal of military hardware and ammunition to help it fend off an onslaught of Russian offensives throughout Ukraine. Many of these weapon systems are relatively easy to use and readily available from Western stocks, while others are of greater complexity, in some cases requiring weeks of training for Ukrainian servicemen to master their new mounts. This includes types such as the PzH 2000 self-propelled gun (SPG) delivered by the Netherlands and Germany, as well as M270 and HIMARS multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) donated by the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. [1] [2]

While a number of countries have gone beyond the call to support Ukraine's plight, other nations have provided little in the way of military support, often preferring to limit their assistance to humanitarian aid in an effort not to upset their relationship with Russia. Though this list of countries is frequently thought to include Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently announced the supply of advanced surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and long-range MRLs in addition to large quantities of anti-tank weapons and other equipment already sent, in turn outdoing most support given by other countries. [2] Though delivery of these systems has turned out to be taking place in a disappointingly slow time frame, Germany has also dedicated seven advanced PzH 2000 SPGs, aside from sanctioning other nations' support such as the Netherlands' delivery of five more of these systems. [1] In sharp contrast, Israel and Switzerland have not only abstained from providing Ukraine with military equipment, but have also actively prevented other countries from sending military aid of their own to Ukraine.
Arms-producing countries like Israel and Switzerland often impose strict end-user restrictions on nations that purchase arms from them, forcing those countries to ask for permission before selling or donating the purchased arms or equipment to a third party. This policy isn't unique to these countries however, with a German howitzer debacle serving as a recent example: When Estonia wanted to supply Ukraine with nine D-30 howitzers received from Finland in the late 2000s, it had to ask for permission from the German government, as Germany had originally supplied Finland with the D-30s after inheriting these from East Germany. Despite the impending danger to Ukraine, Germany refused to grant permission for their delivery until late February in a futile effort not to provoke Russia. [3]

A German Spike-LR ATGM. The German government has sought permission to supply these advanced ATGMs to Ukraine since at least early March 2022, so far to no avail.

Israel on the other hand has shown far less hesitation towards supplying conflict-striken regions such as Azerbaijan with anything from Spike ATGMs to loitering munitions and even ballistic missiles before, during and after the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. Indeed, although Azerbaijan's victory is frequently attributed solely to the use of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), Israeli-made armament (including loitering munitions) played an almost equally significant role throughout the duration of the conflict. Out of the 21 UAV types currently operated by Azerbaijan, no less than nineteen are Israeli (90%) and just two are Turkish (10%). [4] [5] [6]
When Ukraine similarly attempted to acquire Israeli-made UAVs in 2014, Russian pressure on the Israeli government forced Aeronautics to cancel the deal. [7] Just years before, in 2009, Israel's IAI supplied Russia with a number of Searcher II reconnaissance UAVs and granted a license for their assembly and eventual production under the designation of Forpost. The Russian Air Force has since converted a number of these to armed drones and deployed them during the invasion of Ukraine. [8] For Ukraine, the inability to procure Israeli drones while at the same time being on the receiving end of munitions dropped by Israeli-designed drones must be an infuriating state of affairs.

An Israeli-designed Forpost-R UCAV that now sees action against Ukrainian forces over Ukraine.

The refusal to supply Ukraine with reconnaissance UAVs in 2014 marked the start of a de facto arms embargo imposed by Israel on Ukraine from 2014 onwards. In the years since, Israel would turn down every Ukrainian request for the delivery of Israeli-made weaponry. This has included Spike ATGMs and the Iron Dome air defence system, which Ukraine's President Zelensky has repeatedly asked for both before and since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. [7] [9] Requests by Poland, Italy, Germany and the U.S. to supply their Israeli-made Spike ATGMs to the Ukrainian Army after the Russian invasion of Ukraine could also count on a negative response from Israel's government.

Reportedly, the reason for Israel's reluctance to give consent is grounded in concern over the impact such a move would have on its relations with Russia. Specifically, Israel is worried that the killing of Russian soldiers by Israeli-made weapons could lead to Russia harming Israeli security interests in Syria. [10] Israel also wants to remain neutral to enable it to act as a mediator. [11] Russia appears little interested in mirroring Israel's careful attempts at avoiding provocation, with foreign minister's Sergei Lavrov claims that Hitler was of Jewish descent triggering a heated reaction in Israel. [12] Although Israeli policy makers undoubtedly divised this strategy considering it a calculated move, it doesn't take any mental leaps to see that it is also partly a policy borne out of fear. 
Ironically, it is Turkey that has taken a leading role in mediating, hosting several peace talks. Much like Israel, Turkey too has dedicated substantial efforts towards maintaining a strong relationship with Russia and is also faced with external and internal threats from groups that are already receiving Russian support or could see an escalation of support. Nevertheless, Turkey has been fierce in its commitment to Ukraine, strenthening its friendship with the nation throughout its post-revolutionary years in which the threat of Russian aggression loomed heavily over the country. Turkish military aid to Ukraine is among the most substantial of any nation, to the point where Turkish-delivered UCAVs have even been used to strike targets in Russia, have sunken Russian Navy vessels and aided in the sinking of the Black Sea flagship the Moskva. [13] [14]

Israeli-made parts found in a Russian Forpost UAV shot down over Ukraine on the 11th of March 2022.

Israel's refusal to provide military aid to Ukraine or even permission for other countries to do so sharply contradicts historical aid to Israel, when much of the Western world rallied behind the country when it faced invasions of its own, launching air bridges to keep it supplied, and engaging in blood donation campaigns for Israeli soldiers. Of course, the time that Israel could count on such strong support and sympathy from the Western public is long gone, and the world is unlikely to forget Israel's inaction and deliberate obstruction of support to Ukraine. Latvia's defence minister Artis Pabriks has already confirmed that Israel's strict adherence to end-user restrictions in spite of the situation in Ukraine will affect future procurement of weapons systems, a response that though sympathetic to its plight, will do little to help Ukraine in its acute struggle for survival. [15]

Arms deliveries to Ukraine that were blocked by Israel prior to February 2022

  • Reconnaissance UAVs [Deal to purchase drones from Aeronautics cancelled by the Israeli government in 2014]
  • Iron Dome SAM system [Request to purchase denied by the Israeli government before and since February 2022]

Arms deliveries to Ukraine that were blocked by Israel since February 2022

  • Spike-MR/LR ATGM [Italian intention to donate Spike ATGMs to Ukraine announced in early March 2022. Vetoed by Israel]
  • Spike-LR ATGM [Polish intention to donate Spike ATGMs to Ukraine announced in early March 2022. Vetoed by Israel]
  • Spike-LR ATGM [German intention to donate Spike ATGMs to Ukraine announced in early March 2022. Vetoed by Israel]
  • Spike-LR ATGM [U.S. request to allow Germany to donate Spike ATGMs to Ukraine denied by Israel in May 2022]

[1] Beyond The Call - Dutch Arms Deliveries To Ukraine
[2] Answering The Call: Heavy Weaponry Supplied To Ukraine
[3] Germany to send Ukraine weapons in historic shift on military aid
[4] Convenient Ignorance: The U.S. Senate’s Approach To Israeli Arms Sales To Azerbaijan
[5] American Duplicity: Who In Washington Is Targeting Turkey’s Drone Programme? And Why?
[7] Israel treads a narrow tightrope, says no to Spike for Ukraine
[8] Nascent Capabilities: Russian Armed Drones Over Ukraine 
[10] Israel refused US request to transfer anti-tank missiles to Ukraine — report
[11] Why Israel Refused to Help Ukraine Defend Itself From Russian Missiles 
[12] Israel outrage at Sergei Lavrov's claim that Hitler was part Jewish
[13] Defending Ukraine - Listing Russian Military Equipment Destroyed By Bayraktar TB2s
[14] Neptune’s Wrath: The Flagship Moskva’s Demise

Recommended Articles:
Beyond The Call - Dutch Arms Deliveries To Ukraine 
Answering The Call: Heavy Weaponry Supplied To Ukraine