Israel Sends Local Ambassador to Ukraine President’s Inauguration

YERUSHALAYIM -
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy walks from the parliament to the presidential administration office after his inauguration in Kiev, Monday. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

Israel did not send a minister to the inauguration of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the new president of Ukraine who took office Monday – but Yediot Acharonot quoted sources in the Ukraine Jewish community in Israel and in Ukraine that community members were “very disappointed’ by the decision.

Five heads of state – those of Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia and Hungary – attended the event in Kiev Monday. Representing the United States was Energy Secretary Rick Perry, while Canada’s representative was its Minister of National Defense Harjit Singh Sajjan. Israel sent its ambassador, Yoel Leon, to represent the country at the inauguration of the country’s new 41-year-old president, who is Jewish himself.

The reason, Yediot Acharonot said, was to avoid insulting Russia, which is currently on very poor terms with Ukraine. Although Moscow did not ask for an international boycott of the inauguration, many countries decided of their own volition to avoid the event – fearing that they might be seen as choosing sides in the dispute between Russia and Ukraine. Russia did not send a representative to the inauguration, nor was it even invited.

Sending a lower-level representative was perhaps understandable for many countries in central and eastern Europe, the sources quoted by the report said – but it was unacceptable for Israel to behave that way. The report quoted Ukraine media expert living in Israel Alex Tenzer as saying that “Ukrainians who have immigrated to Israel are upset at the insult to President Zelenskiy and are concerned that relations between the two countries could be harmed. We would have expected Israel to send a more senior figure or a minister to the event.”

It should be noted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Zelenskiy to congratulate him on his victory last month, and invited him for a state visit.