Israel Asserts No Change Policy on Ukrainian War Following US Warnings

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (File photo: Reuters)
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (File photo: Reuters)
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Israel Asserts No Change Policy on Ukrainian War Following US Warnings

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (File photo: Reuters)
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (File photo: Reuters)

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen discussed bilateral relations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and regional and international issues, including the war in Ukraine.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Lavrov called Cohen to congratulate him on his new role.

Cohen referred extensively to the Jewish community in Russia and former Soviet immigrants in Israel and their importance to relations between the countries.

For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Lavrov congratulated his Israeli counterpart on his post and expressed his readiness to work to strengthen cooperation between Russia and Israel.

It stated that the Palestinian-Israeli settlement was discussed during the phone call, adding that Lavrov reiterated Russia's willingness to be involved in the peace process with Palestine based on international law.

In a briefing to Israeli media, a senior Israeli official confirmed that Cohen and Lavrov discussed the Russian war in Ukraine.

Cohen conveyed to his Russian counterpart a message from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, stressing that there was "no change in Israeli policy" in this regard.

The Israeli minister stressed that Israel's aid to Ukraine would continue, noting that while additional details of Israel's policy on the matter were still being crafted, "one thing for certain is that we will talk less about it in public."

He added that the ministry would prepare a detailed memorandum that would constitute a basis for researching the cabinet for political and security affairs to formulate a responsible policy.

After these statements, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one Israel's strongest supporters in US Congress, slammed Cohen.

Graham tweeted that the new Israeli foreign minister prioritized the US-Israel strategic relationship and supported continued humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

"However, the idea that Israel should speak less about Russia's criminal invasion of Ukraine is a bit unnerving. I hope Mr. Cohen understands that when he speaks to Russia's Lavrov, he's speaking to a representative of a war criminal regime that commits war crimes on an industrial scale daily."

A senior Israeli political official said that Cohen briefed Blinken about the conversation that would take place with Lavrov.

Blinken requested that Cohen convey US messages to Lavrov.

According to the Ynet website, Graham's statements constitute a blow to Cohen and that there was a consensus between Republicans and Democrats on the Russian issue.

If Israeli policy changes to a more supportive approach to Russia, it could damage Jerusalem's standing in Washington.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett refrained from condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

However, the head of the interim government, Yair Lapid, approached the US position more and did not contact any Russian official. Netanyahu likely intends to return to a position closer to Russia.



Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
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Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo

Sweden's domestic security agency on Thursday accused Iran of using established criminal networks in Sweden as a proxy to target Israeli or Jewish interests in the Scandinavian country.
The accusations were raised at a news conference by Daniel Stenling, the head of the SAPO agency's counterespionage unit, following a series of events earlier this year.
In late January, the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm was sealed off after what was then described as “a dangerous object” was found on the grounds of the diplomatic mission in an eastern Stockholm neighborhood. Swedish media said the object was a hand grenade.
The embassy was not evacuated and the object was eventually destroyed. No arrests were made and authorities did not say what was found. On May 17, gunshots were heard near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and the area was cordoned off. No one was arrested.
According to The Associated Press, Stenling said, without offering specifics or evidence to back up his assertion, that the agency "can establish that criminal networks in Sweden are used as a proxy by Iran.”
“It is very much about planning and attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish interests, goals and activities in Sweden," he said and added that the agency sees "connections between criminal individuals in the criminal networks and individuals who are connected to the Iranian security services.”
Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer and Hampus Nygårds, deputy head of the Swedish police's National Operations Department, were also at the online news conference with Stenling.
“We see this connection between the Iranian intelligence services, the security services and precisely criminals in the criminal networks in Sweden," Stenling said. “We see that connection and it also means that we need to work much more internationally to get to the crimes and be able to prevent them.”
Stenling and the others made no mention of the recent incidents connected to the Israel Embassy and stopped short of naming any criminal groups or suspects.
Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.
By May 15, police have recorded 85 shootings so far this year, including 12 fatal shootings. Last year, 53 people were killed and 109 were wounded in a total of 363 shootings.