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'Outrageous and Ungrateful': Israel Fuming Over Zelensky's Knesset Speech

© Sputnik / Alexey Vitvitsky / Go to the mediabankUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.03.2022
The Ukrainian president, who spoke to Israeli lawmakers via Zoom, tried to evoke guilt by drawing comparisons between Russia's military operation in Ukraine and the Holocaust. He also urged the Jewish state to take action, impose sanctions on Russia, and provide his country with advanced equipment and technology.
On Sunday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a speech to Israeli MPs after addressing lawmakers in the US, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Initially, the plan was that Zelensky would address Israeli politicians from the stage of the Knesset in Jerusalem. But the idea was eventually scrapped with the excuse that the plenum was on a scheduled break.

Historic Speech?

Instead, he was offered to speak to lawmakers via Zoom, while the parliamentarians were given the option to not attend his address.
Some seized on the opportunity and skipped the event. But the majority listened in, along with more than a thousand ordinary Israelis who gathered on Tel Aviv's Habima Square to watch the address live.
© Alexandr Maksimenko / Go to the mediabankAzov battalion soldiers take oath in Kiev before being sent to Donbass
Azov battalion soldiers take oath in Kiev before being sent to Donbass - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.03.2022
Azov battalion soldiers take oath in Kiev before being sent to Donbass
In his speech, the Ukrainian president was trying to speak to the hearts of the masses. He compared the actions of the Russians currently carrying out a special military operation in Ukraine to those of the Nazis. Zelensky claimed that Moscow was carrying out a "final solution" against the Ukrainians and urged Israel to help his people, just as the Ukrainians "came to the rescue" of the Jews some 80 years ago.
By "helping out", Zelensky referred to a number of measures. He demanded that Israel provide Ukraine with its Iron Dome missile defence system. He called for severe sanctions to be introduced on Russia and urged for more Ukrainian refugees to be taken in.
Zelensky’s criticism was probably meant to evoke guilt among Israelis, but once the speech was over, it turned out that his remarks had quite an opposite effect.

Outrageous and Ungrateful

Israeli experts, politicians, and journalists have taken to social media platforms to vent their dissatisfaction with the speech, which slammed Israel on all possible fronts.
Some said his Holocaust analogy was "outrageous". Others treated his criticism as sheer "ungratefulness", especially given the efforts Israel has been making to help the Ukrainian people.
Since the Russian military operation kicked off on 24 February, Israel has absorbed more than 5,000 Ukrainian refugees, with many others still on their way. The country has also exerted efforts to mediate between Moscow and Kiev. It has poured in millions of dollars into setting up a makeshift hospital in the west of Ukraine, while Israeli NGOs have collected money, food, clothes, and medicine to assist the country.
Ordinary Israelis did not appreciate Zelensky's criticism either, and too took to social media platforms to express their anger with the Ukrainian leader.

"It would have been better if Zelensky gave a generic speech about justice and the [struggle] of the weak against the strong, rather than telling us grandma's stories about the Ukrainian people's contribution to saving Jews in the Holocaust", wrote one tweep.

© AFP 2023 / DIMITAR DILKOFFA view of the Babyn (Babi) Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv on March 2, 2022
A view of the Babyn (Babi) Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv on March 2, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.03.2022
A view of the Babyn (Babi) Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv on March 2, 2022

"For every Righteous Among the Nations who did help, there were 1,000 Ukrainians who participated with great joy and out of a free will in killing Jews", the user added.

Another netizen chimed in. "Just got back from the Habima screening of Zelensky so here are my impressions. 1. He mentions false facts about the Russians bombing Babi Yar and the assistance the Ukrainians gave to the Jews during the Holocaust (while 1.5 million Jews were murdered by the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators). 2. Conducts an illusionary comparison between the Holocaust and what's happening today. 3. He attacks instead of bridging the gaps between the peoples. Ungrateful! And 4. A weak speech".

However, comments about the Holocaust were far from the only issue that stirred anti-Zelensky sentiments, with many twitterians slamming the Ukrainian head of state for demanding that Israel neglect its national interests and take sides.
Over the years, Israel and Russia have established stable trade relations and tight cooperation on a number of issues. Moscow, which protects the air space in Syria, clinched a deal with Tel Aviv on military coordination in Syria to prevent accidents following the 2018 downing of a Russian Il-20 plane off the Syrian coast during Israeli airstrikes on Latakia.
Russia also helps mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip
Israel would not want to risk jeopardising those ties. It is also not ready to provide the Ukrainians with the equipment they are seeking to obtain.

"..No, Mr Zelensky! We have a state, we have interests! Israel has no commitment to Ukraine, nor does it have commitments to Russia. A Jew who wants to immigrate to Israel is more than welcome. But do not dictate to us any policies!"

"Two conclusions from the Zelensky speech. The first one is that his people don't know how to talk to the Israelis. Second, Zelensky knows that he won't be getting what he is asking for. It is just a speech for the sake of a speech", wrote another tweep.

The harsh criticism of Zelensky appears to have done the trick. During the night, the Ukrainian president released a message where he thanked Israel for all its efforts. But as Russia's military operation continues, and Israel stays firm on maintaining its relative neutrality, another serving of harsh remarks might be just a matter of time.
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