Ukraine and Putin Remind Israel: You’re on your own


Ukraine’s Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky and Israel’s President Isaac Herzog met in Kyiv last year. Now, Ukraine faces the kind of military threat to its existence that Israeli statesmen have often confronted. From Ben Gurion onward, Israel—like Ukraine—has needed to face evil alone.

Russia’s murderous attack on Ukraine reminds Israel of a truth that the Jewish state’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, intuited decades ago: When the chips are down, Israel is on its own.

Even before Israel achieved statehood, its Zionist founders were living this existential fact of life affirmed when Britain betrayed its Mandate for Palestine by carving out the majority of Palestine to create Trans-Jordan, and again when it issued its 1939 White Paper, trapping millions of Jews in the European slaughterhouse of the Holocaust.

Ben Gurion and his successors in Israel’s War of Independence once again slammed into this hard truth in the Six-Day War, as well as in its many battles against terror groups and in other crises over the years.

Israel knows well there can be mounds of international agreements, cordial declarations, and statesmen’s pledges, but when a formidable enemy—or a treacherous ally—disregards these pacts and sentiments, Israel, like Ukraine, stands alone.

Even Israel’s best friend, the United States, freely proclaims its “unbreakable bonds” with the Jewish state. But then—as happened with President Obama just months later— betray those promises at the United Nations by failing to veto a Security Council resolution aimed at nullifying Israel’s sovereignty in parts of Jerusalem and its communities in Judea and Samaria.

Putin, like all tyrants before him, disregards all prior arrangements in pursuing the re-establishment of a Russian Empire. Ukraine suddenly has become, for Putin, the Third Reich Redux.

Recall that Ukrainians suffered perhaps the worst of Nazi Germany’s assault on Stalin’s USSR—after having suffered the worst of Stalin’s own barbaric insanity.

Improbably, Ukrainians elected President Zelensky, a Jewish comedian who lost many relatives in the Holocaust. His father was a decorated World War II Red Army hero. Even these facts pose no contradiction in Putin’s unhinged narrative about Ukraine’s alleged neo-Nazi regime.

Meanwhile, the world expresses outrage, levies limited, mostly toothless sanctions with little short-term urgency, and sends trickles of “defensive weapons” to stop a quarter of a million heavily armed Russian soldiers. Ukrainians may be putting up a plucky defense, but their fate is dubious at best.

As the world dithers in its response to Putin’s military buildup and naked aggression, Israel needs to remember that when its survival as a nation is at stake—as Ukraine’s surely is—only Israel itself can ensure Israel’s future.

Like Ukraine, Israel is facing enemies that would love to see it disappear from the family of nations. Those enemies adhere to an utterly fictitious historical narrative about everything from Jewish history in the Middle East—including whether Jewish Temples existed—to the Mossad’s alleged deployment of Zionist killer dolphins.

Just as Putin invents a fictional history of Ukraine and alleges atrocities, Israel is regularly accused by malicious NGOs of human-rights violations—even genocide and apartheid—that are manifestly false.

And, like today’s Ukraine, Israel has been left to fend for itself when attacked incessantly.

The United Nations in 1947 voted to partition Palestine. But not one of the international endorsers of the plan helped Israel militarily when it was swarmed by genocidal Arab armies in 1948.


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