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After a 20-year break, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay an official visit to Ukraine.
In addition to resolving interstate issues, his arrival in Ukraine can be considered part of the election campaign on the eve of early parliamentary elections.
What topics can be raised during his meetings in Kiev, as well as how the factor of repatriates from post-Soviet republics is used in Israeli elections.
The main thing:
Netanyahu ignored Kiev, but often flew to Moscow
In Kiev, the Ukrainian side should discuss with the Israeli Prime Minister the infringement of Ukrainians on the border
An Israeli politician will certainly raise the issue of transferring the Ukrainian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Kiev needs to prepare its position
A trip to Kiev is part of Netanyahu’s election campaign: he is fighting for the votes of immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet republics
Netanyahu is trying on the role of a peacemaker between Russia and Ukraine.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s press service confirmed that Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Ukraine will take place on August 18.
The last time Netanyahu was in Kiev 20 years ago was in his first cadence as prime minister, in March 1999. For a long time he did not reciprocate with the repeated visits of Ukrainian politicians and their invitations to visit Ukraine even after the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine in 2014. At the same time, Netanyahu went to Moscow to meet with Putin regularly, which was explained by the need to solve problems in neighboring Syria.
It is hardly worth expecting breakthrough results from the visit of the Israeli prime minister to Kiev. However, even the first personal contact of the two leaders and a discussion of the accumulated problems can bring quite unexpected results.
So, Netanyahu plans to meet with President Vladimir Zelensky, participate in a memorial ceremony for those who died in Babi Yar and talk with the public. Already on August 19, Netanyahu will return to Israel.
No documents are planned to be signed – the most important of them, the Free Trade Area Agreement between Ukraine and Israel, was ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of the previous convocation and signed by President Zelensky just the day before (August 7).
Among the pressing issues of bilateral cooperation are the cessation of discrimination of Ukrainian citizens when crossing the border with Israel, the construction of a memorial complex in Babi Yar in Kiev.
The list of issues for discussion includes voting at the UN on resolutions of mutual interest. Recall that Ukraine supported the UN Security Council resolution in 2016, which requires Israel to stop the construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories. Israel took the position of the Ukrainian delegation as an unfriendly gesture and refused to accept the head of the Cabinet of Ministers Volodymyr Groysman. The visit has been rescheduled.
In turn, Kiev may recall Netanyahu’s non-alignment of his country with the regime of international sanctions against Russia for the occupation of Ukrainian territories – Crimea and Donbass. And with the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide, the Israeli Knesset continues to pull.
In the closed part of the negotiations between the leaders of the countries, issues of military cooperation may be raised: it was initially overshadowed by Israel’s refusal to sell strike UAVs to Kiev after the Russian attack – apparently so as not to tease the Kremlin. Then in Ukraine there was a scandal at a competition to re-equip the Ukrainian army with communications equipment – the Israeli company Elbit lost to Turkish Aselsan. Netanyahu even personally called his colleague Vladimir Groisman about this – and the competition was repeated (though the result was the same).
You can also predict with confidence that the Israeli prime minister will voice a request to move the Ukrainian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This question is sensitive for both countries. On the one hand, for Israel this has the most important political and ideological significance. On the other hand, Ukraine carries significant risks: from a conflict with the Arab world (the possible cessation of support for the Ukrainian position by more than 50 countries at the UN; termination of economic contracts with them, etc.) to security problems from radical Islamists – for Ukrainians all over the world, as well as diplomats and their families in Israel itself. Not to mention the high cost of the move itself.
In addition to the interstate aspect for Netanyahu, this visit also has purely domestic political significance. The fact is that on September 17, 2019, early parliamentary elections will be held in Israel. Therefore, a visit to Kiev is part of the campaign of the Israeli Prime Minister.
Interestingly, the previous elections took place just a few months ago – in April. So this is the shortest break between elections and the duration of 21 members of parliament.
Without going deep into the internal party lines, it is worth noting that the votes of almost 500 thousand emigrants from the states of the former USSR will traditionally become an important factor in these elections. And now in Israel there is a struggle for their support in the elections between the parties of Netanyahu “Likud” and the party of “Our Home Israel” (NDI) Avigdor Liberman party.
According to the polls of the previous elections, the “Russian” votes gave the Netanyahu Likud party 4-4.5 mandates and the same number of NDI. That is, conditionally “Russian street” is divided approximately in half.
Netanyahu is trying to win over Russian-speaking voters by “pulling” them from the NDI party with a series of steps. Thus, Ariel Bullstein, a special adviser on immigrants from the former USSR, was appointed. In the Russian-language media there is a massive paid advertising campaign of parties, their leaders and programs. Netanyahu even met informally in a bar with 25 bloggers from the former USSR.
The culmination should be the arrival of Vladimir Putin in Israel just before the Knesset elections – officially to participate in the opening of the memorial in memory of the siege of Leningrad. According to the Israeli media, Putin’s arrival could add Likud votes – as Putin’s figure is popular among repatriates.
And while there is no official confirmation from the Russian side about the participation of the Russian president in the Israeli election campaign, a huge joint portrait of Putin and Netanyahu appeared on the building of the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv. The two politicians shake hands with the slogan “Netanyahu: in another league.” And on the other side of the building there is a similar poster, but there the Israeli Prime Minister shakes hands with US President Donald Trump. These posters repeat an almost identical advertising campaign that was carried out throughout Israel in preparation for the previous election in April 2019.
Another strategy works with the Ukrainian (and conditionally “pro-Ukrainian”) part of the Israelis. For example, Netanyahu personally met a plane from Kiev with 121 new repatriates and went directly to board them.
Of the new strategies, Netanyahu is trying on the role of a peacemaker between Ukraine and Russia. So, at the meeting with bloggers mentioned above, he promised, answering the question of journalist Shimon Briman, to act as an intermediary between Zelensky and Putin. Unless, of course, there will be such a request of Kiev. The Israeli prime minister has constant personal and telephone contact with the Russian president. And also – because of the war, but only in Syria.
Netanyahu will become the second foreign leader whom the new president of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, is hosting in Kiev. But in fact – the first serious “heavyweight” of world politics. So Kiev in all respects should prepare its clear and justified position.