Damage control? Zelensky thanks Israel after biting Knesset speech

Ukrainian president walks back harsh criticism of Israel.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky walked back his blistering comments slamming Israel for not providing the embattled eastern European country with military aid and for toeing the diplomatic line with Moscow in his speech to the Knesset Sunday evening.

His remarks comparing the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the Holocaust sparked backlash from MKs.

“Of course, Israel has its interests, [its] strategy to protect its citizens. We understand all of it,” Zelensky said in a video posted to social media on Monday, according to a Reuters translation.

“The Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. [Naftali] Bennett, is trying to find a way of holding talks. And we are grateful for this. We are grateful for his efforts, so that sooner or later we will begin to have talks with Russia, possibly in Jerusalem,” he said.

Zelensky’s comments thanking Israel for its attempts to mediate an end to the conflict come as a major departure from his previous public criticism of the Jewish state for not embracing harsh sanctions against Russia or releasing statements officially criticizing Russia for the invasion.

In his speech to the Knesset, Zelensky equated the war in Ukraine with the Holocaust, a comparison that offended Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum.

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“The Russians use the terminology of the Nazi party, they want to destroy everything. The Nazis called this ‘the final solution to the Jewish question,’” Zelensky said.

“And now… in Moscow… they’re using those words, ‘the final solution.’ But now it’s directed against us and the Ukrainian question.”

He then pivoted to pressuring Jerusalem to abandon its longtime policy of maintaining warm relations with both Russia and Ukraine, suggesting that remaining neutral would place blood on Israel’s hands.

“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 Israeli lawmakers.

Speaking before a flight took off from Ben-Gurion International Airport Monday morning for Ukraine with a fully equipped, $6.4 million field hospital, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel is doing more than most for the country fighting off a Russian invasion.