Ukrainian president’s request to address Knesset turned down

The upcoming Knesset recess and building renovations were the reasons given for not convening a special session.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy turned down a Ukrainian request Wednesday for President Volodymyr Zelensky to address Israel’s parliament.

Responding to Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk, Levy said the Knesset’s spring recess begins Thursday. Rather than convening a special session, he offered to invite MKs to join a Zoom session with Zelensky.

A source from Levy’s office told The Jerusalem Post that it would be “physically impossible” to reconvene because the Knesset building will be undergoing renovations during the recess.

The Ukrainians were reportedly not interested in Israel’s offer.

Zelensky has scored major public relations points in recent days by virtually addressing more than 300 members of the U.S. Congress on Saturday and packed houses of parliament in Canada, the EU and Great Britain.

During Tuesday’s speech to the British House of Commons, the Ukrainian leader received a prolonged standing ovation as he pointedly repeated the famous words used by Winston Churchill during his premiership at the beginning of World War II.

“We will not give up and we will not lose,” Zelensky vowed. “We will fight to the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost, in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”

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Levy tried to soften the refusal by expressing the Knesset’s “warmest wishes of friendship with the people of Ukraine” and extending “condolences” to the families of those who have died so far in the two-week-old conflict.

“We join with you in praying for the recovery of the wounded and for a speedy and peaceful resolution to the war,” he added, promising continued assistance “in efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Ukrainian people.”

Zelensky, who has emerged as his country’s top spokesman, is trying to drum up support for Ukraine that goes beyond warm words and even beyond purely humanitarian aid of the kind Israel had sent nine days ago. A 100-ton airlift included 17 tons of medical equipment and medicines, thousands of winter tents, blankets, coats and sleeping bags, and water supplies for some 100,000 people.

The Israeli Health Ministry also announced Saturday that it would be setting up a field hospital in Ukraine to be run by civilian medical personnel.

The hospital would include an emergency room, adult and pediatric wards, primary care clinics and a delivery room. Managed by Sheba Medical Center and the Clalit health fund, it would also have a high-tech unit of Sheba’s virtual hospital, where Sheba physicians could examine patients from Israel.

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However, a Finance Ministry source told Channel 12 Wednesday that it was not asked to fund such a venture, nor would it do so. The network said private donations would be needed for the project, which could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.