Bennett: Israel doing more than most countries for Ukraine

Bennett’s remarks were apparently in response to Zelensky’s claim that Israel wasn’t doing enough to help the Ukrainians.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Speaking before a flight took off from Ben-Gurion International Airport Monday morning for Ukraine with a fully equipped field hospital, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel is doing more than most for the country fighting off a Russian invasion.

“I am very moved and happy here this morning, to send on its way the aid delegation that will establish a field hospital in western Ukraine,” Bennett told reporters while standing in front of the airplane on the tarmac alongside some 30 medical personnel and a dozen government officials, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

“Israel has been extending its hand to render assistance in the crisis in Ukraine for several weeks now, from the very first moment – in various ways,” Bennett stated.

The prime minister referenced the 100 tons of aid Israel sent just a few days after the war began in late February, the new Ukrainian immigrants Israel is currently absorbing, and the fact that Israel has already “opened its doors” to 15,000 Ukrainians who will stay “until the worst has passed.”

“There aren’t many countries that are extending themselves to such a degree,” he added.

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Bennett’s words could be seen as a pointed rebuttal to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who complained Sunday in his Zoom address to the Knesset that Israel was not doing enough for his country.  He demanded that Israel send military equipment, such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system, slap sanctions on Russia and take in more refugees.

“I’m sure you feel our pain, but can you explain why we’re still waiting… for your help… when other countries are giving help? Why isn’t Israeli help, or even entry permits, forthcoming?” he asked.

Zelensky hit a raw nerve, however, by invoking the Holocaust, saying “The Final Solution is not directed at us.” Several Israeli lawmakers were  infuriated by his remarks and accused him of distorting history.

In his nightly address to his country later, Zelensky walked back some of his criticism, saying Ukraine was “grateful” for Bennett’s efforts in “trying to find a way of holding talks” with Russia and that Jerusalem would be a good place to host the negotiations.

The field hospital will be staffed by personnel from all of Israel’s health funds and several hospitals, including the Sheba Medical Center and Schneider Children’s Hospital, at a cost of some NIS 21 million. While much of the expense will be shouldered by the Israeli government, the prime minister especially thanked the Schusterman Family Foundation for its financial contribution to the cause.

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The hospital will include an emergency room, a delivery room, treatment wards, a lab and an x-ray department. Patients will also have the opportunity to connect remotely to doctors in Israel who will be able to diagnose and advise patients in real time.

Called “Operation Star of Meir” in honor of Ukrainian-born former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, the hospital is expected to operate for about a month.