The rift between Russia and Israel seems to be growing quickly.
On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Israel of supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine, further escalating a row which began when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood, similarly to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Israel lambasted Lavrov on Monday, saying his claim was an "unforgivable" falsehood that debased the horrors of the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust.
In its statement, Russia said Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's comments were "anti-historical" and "explaining to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv".
It came in response to the summoning of Russia's envoy to Israel Anatoly Viktorov to a meeting with officials who demanded he clarify Lavrov's comments.
Lavrov, perhaps unintentionally, repeated an antisemitic trove blaming Jews for the hatred against them, claiming the greatest antisemites in history were Jewish.
Such comments could not be overlooked and Lapid's condemnation was as harsh as diplomacy would allow.
Jerusalem, however, hoped to repair the rift because Lapid and Lavrov had had a cordial relationship until the recent crisis.
But even Israel's silence after the meeting with the ambassador did not help and Moscow opted to escalate the tensions.
Now, the question is whether Israel will respond. Can Israel let such outrageous comments made by Russia's Foreign Ministry go unanswered?
Moscow is focused on its aggression in Ukraine. To justify its actions, which allegedly include war crimes, in the eyes of its population, the Kremlin must continue equating Ukraine to 1940s Germany by constantly claiming to be "de-Nazifying" its southern neighbor.
As a result, Russian propaganda machine feels justified in claiming that all means, no matter how brutal, are legitimate in the fight against Ukraine.
Branding Ukrainian as Nazis is Moscow's attempt to bend reality to its needs. In the Russian universe, there is no such thing as a Ukrainian nation and its current manifestation is nothing but an affront against Russia.
By enlisting the Russian obsession with the Nazis to the war effort in Ukraine, the seeds of the Russian-Israeli rift were sown.
Israel's efforts to stay somewhat neutral since the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of concerns for the Jewish community in Russia, and of course because of the need to continue to attack Iranian targets in Syria, have failed.
Reports of Russian war crimes, and the firm support for Ukraine in the West, made it impossible for Jerusalem to remain impartial.
Bennett's efforts to mediate between the warring parties required some moderation in Israel's public expressions, but that too fell by the roadside when the pictures of mass graves in Bucha had emerged.
Washington and Berlin were understanding of Israel's precarious position and its need for a "special relationship" with Russia. But when Russian President Vladimir Putin and even Zelensky suspended ceasefire talks in the immediate future, there was no longer a need for Bennett's mediation.
Now, Russia has embarked on an ideological tirade that threatens the memory of the Holocaust, cheapens the crimes of the Nazis, and even whitewashes them.
As a result, not only can Bennett no longer act as an honest broker in negotiations, but judging by the Russian Foreign Ministry's statement, Israel's relations with the Kremlin will only get worse.
Now, we must see whether the rift will remain in the diplomatic realm or extend to international relations arena, impacting Israel's freedom to act in Syria.
And that is the issue being discussed in the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry as we speak.
First published: 21:19, 05.03.22