In first public comment, Bennett does not condemn Russia over invasion

Prime minister refrains from condemning Russian invasion calls for Israelis to leave and tells Jewish communities Israel's doors are open to them

Ron Ben-Yishai|Updated:
For the first time, Israeli PM Naftali Bennet on Thursday, acknowledged the Russia invasion of Ukraine, a few hours after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid voiced Israeli condemnation of Russia's invasion.
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  • Bennet, spoke at the officer's course graduation ceremony, where he avoided expressing criticism of the Kremlin.
    4 View gallery
    נפתלי בנט
    נפתלי בנט
    Naftali Bennet
    (Photo: Haim Hornshtein)
    "These are hard and tragic times, and our hearts are with the Ukrainians who are entangled in this situation even though they have done nothing wrong," he said.
    "The world is way less stable, and our region also changes from day to day. These days teach us that war between militaries is not, unfortunately, a thing of the past. Israel is positioned today as a rock of strength, stability, security and hope, in a complicated region with many threats and challenged."
    4 View gallery
    נפתלי בנט
    נפתלי בנט
    Naftali Bennet
    (Photo: Haim Hornshtein)
    Bennet called on the Israelis that have yet to evacuate Ukraine and said: "Leave now, protect your lives. Our people are waiting to accept you at the Western borders of the country,"
    He also called on Jewish Ukrainians to come to Israel.
    "Israel's door is always open. We are determined to lend a helping hand and any humanitarian aid necessary. We have the abilities, and we have experience," the prime minister said.
    (Bennet's speech at the IDF officer course ceremony regarding war in Ukraine)
    Earlier, Yair Lapid condemned the Russian aggression.
    "The Russian attack on Ukraine is a serious violation of international law, and Israel condemns it," he said.
    (Lapid on Russian invasion of Ukraine)
    Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman also commented on the war in Ukraine but said Israel must keep a low profile regarding the conflict.
    "We should hope the fighting ends quickly and the conflict is resolved diplomatically," Liberman said in an interview on Ynet.
    "We must first of all, care for the Israelis and Jewish communities in Ukraine and should maintain a low profile.
    4 View gallery
    הפגנה מול שגרירות רוסיה בתל אביב על הפלישה לאוקראינה
    הפגנה מול שגרירות רוסיה בתל אביב על הפלישה לאוקראינה
    Israelis protest the Russian invasion of Ukrain outside Russia's embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    "Our position is clear. We respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and call for an end to the fighting. Conflicts are resolved by diplomacy and not on the battle field," he said.




    Largely due to the Russian military presence in Syria, Israel has been very wary in condemning Russia up until now. On Wednesday Israel released an official statement in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but failed to mention Russia.
    Prior to Lapid's condemnation, the Russian embassy in the UN declared condemnation of Israel, what is unusual, and probably a direct response to the official report in support of Ukraine's sovereignty. The statement stated: "Russia is worried from Tel Aviv's announcement to expand presence in the settlements of the occupied Golan Heights, that violate the Geneva Convention. Russia doesn't recognize the sovereignty of Israel in the Golan Heights, which is a part of Syria".
    Israeli President Isaac Herzog also voiced his opinion on the Russian military offense: "This is a very complex historic moment. I feel deeply saddened by the fear of humanitarian tragedy and harm of innocent civilians". His initial statement also failed to directly condemn Russia. However, shortly after Herzog, amid his diplomatic visit in Greece, said "The Israeli government, like Greece, stands against the violation of the international law that is taking place in Ukrainian land, and against the violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity". He called on the remaining Israelis in Ukraine to "come back through the land borders".
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    Isaac Herzog speaks at the Knesset after his election as the next president of the State of Israel
    Isaac Herzog speaks at the Knesset after his election as the next president of the State of Israel
    Isaac Herzog
    (Photo: TPS)

    First published: 17:25, 02.24.22
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