Today, the United Nations Security Council debated a resolution sponsored by the United States that called for a “humanitarian pause” on Israeli attacks on Gaza to allow aid to flow into the blockaded enclave, called on Hamas to release all prisoners, and reiterated an “inherent right of all states” to self-defense.
It was supported by Albania, France, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S. Brazil and Mozambique abstained. China and Russia vetoed. (The United Arab Emirates also voted against it.)
This follows the failure of a Russian resolution on Oct. 16 that refused to name or call out Hamas, other than to call for the release of all people taken into captivity since Oct. 7. That one received support from only five countries, including China and Russia. France, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. opposed it. Russia’s ambassador claimed their opposition came from “selfish and political” interests.
None of this should be a surprise. No matter what you think of the Israel-Hamas war, it’s clear that it serves Russia’s interests. The more the world is destabilized, the better for Russia. It needs the West distracted from Ukraine, and for its people to tire of conflict and war.
But it is surprising for one simple reason: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent the entire past two years keeping Ukraine at arm’s length, denying the kind of help Israel has been more than capable of delivering.
The purpose was to curry favor with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. In a realpolitik way, it all made perfect sense. Russia has a battery of its most sophisticated S-400 air defense system in Damascus, yet it has remained curiously silent as Israeli aircraft periodically raid the city and its airport, targeting Iranian-backed militias. It wasn’t hard to conclude that the two nations had a quid pro quo—Israel stays out of Ukraine (other than some minor shipments of humanitarian aid), and Russia stays out of Israel’s way.
Indeed, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, back in July 2022, explicitly noted, “The security threats to Israel, the threats to the lives of both Israeli soldiers and Israeli citizens, are enormous … We think first of all about our own interests and have to be careful.”
Israel had much to offer Ukraine. Its Iron Dome air defense system is among the finest in the world, if not the best short-range air defense system. But not only did Israel not provide any of its own systems (with reason, as they’re using them all today), the country actually blocked the transfer of two systems owned by the United States.
Furthermore, Israel has “hundreds” of an older model of its well-regarded Merkava tanks in storage, though many of them are now being sold to Cyprus and Morocco. With Ukraine’s desperate need for additional armor, Israel could’ve been a welcome source of older-generation vehicles. Instead, Ukraine was frozen out. And Israel’s arms industry goes well beyond that, exporting $12.5 billion worth of arms in 2022, ranking it 10th in the world. (Ironically, Arab nations accounted for 24% of that total.) The top Israeli weapons exports?
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones made up the largest chunk of exports at 25%—up from 9% in 2021—followed by missiles, rockets, and air defense systems at 19%.
Exports of radar and electronic warfare systems amounted to 13% of arms sales.
Ukraine could certainly use more of all of those things.
Israel’s reticence was particularly odd given the growing closeness between Russia and Iran. There is much speculation that Iran is receiving weapons technology transfers in exchange for the Iranian-made drones currently pummeling Ukrainian cities. Along with North Korea, this new axis poses a significant threat to both Western nations, as well as Israel itself. Indeed, Hezbollah has already destroyed several Israeli armored vehicles over the past decade using Russian-made anti-tank Kornet guided missiles (via Syria or Iran). With Russia’s pariah-state status enduring and its military equipment performing so poorly on the Ukrainian battlefield, it’ll need new export markets for its arms industry. India might opt for better Western weaponry moving forward, but Iranian-backed militias will be thrilled with Russian gear.
Given the events of the past several weeks, Israel may be done with Russia. While we haven’t seen an overt policy shift from the top of the Israeli government, this rant by a Likud member of Israel’s Parliament on Russian propaganda network RT was a social media sensation, and hopefully offers a preview of coming attractions:
Here’s a partial transcript:
Russia is supporting the enemies of Israel. Russia is supporting Nazi people who want to commit genocide on us and Russia will pay the price. We're gonna win this war. Afterwards, we're not forgetting what you're doing, we're not forgetting, we will come, we will make sure Ukraine wins. We will make sure that you pay the price for what you have done, you as Russia.
This is what cluster munitions look and sound like on the receiving end:
There’s been a question about the number of ATACMS long-range missiles delivered to Ukraine, and the lack of follow-up attacks after the spectacular decimation of the helicopter airbase in Berdyansk suggested Ukraine’s supply numbered around a dozen.
We now have evidence of a new Ukrainian ATACMS attack:
There are few sights more satisfying than a Russian TOS-1A thermobaric MRLS system going up in flames. Those things are evil.
Did someone share this while I was on vacation?
Remember, their effective firing range is 3 kilometers (I’ve seen claims that they can fire as far away as 6 kilometers). They have to operate close to the front line, rendering them vulnerable to counter-battery fire and drones.
Iranian-backed militias injured two dozen U.S. military personnel in drone attacks on bases in the Middle East.
Injuries were minor, thankfully. But excuse me if I’m stressing about it. My son is currently deployed in the region.