Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Binyamin Netanyahu headed for a two-day visit to Ukraine on Sunday, a day after Gaza rockets fell in Sderot, injuring two residents, and three armed Palestinian terrorists were killed by IDF troops while attempting to infiltrate across the border.
Just before boarding the plane, PM Netanyahu warned: “I’ve heard statements saying that I would refrain from embarking on a broad [military] campaign because of the elections,” he said. “This is not true. My considerations are case-relevant. If it is necessary, we will go into broad action – with or without elections.”
Although the IDF stressed Motzoei Shabbos that there had been no change in the security level or special instructions issued in the wake of the security incidents, many residents of the south chose to spend the night in bomb shelters. Sunday, however, has been quiet.
Netanyahu’s working visit to Ukraine is the first by an Israeli prime minister since Netanyahu traveled to the country during his first term in March 1999.
The Ukraine trip is widely understood to be political, aimed at boosting the prime minister’s standing with Israelis from the former Soviet Union.
“The visit to Ukraine can certainly help Netanyahu in the elections, in two ways,” Avinoam Idan, an expert on Russia and the states of the former Soviet Union who teaches geostrategy at Haifa University, told The Jerusalem Post.
“The first reason is quite trivial: he will be received by a head of state, which is always great photo op ahead of elections. Second is, of course, the high percentage of Israelis with Ukrainian roots. A nice welcome in Kiev, especially by a Jewish president, can indeed increase Netanyahu’s standing” among this important segment of the electorate.
It was noted, however, that younger people whose parents came from the FSU have a weaker connection to the old country, and will not be influenced by the visit.