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Help Ukraine! Sort of.

Hey, nobody said you could shoot back at Russia! And as for a missile defense system, wouldn't it be more environmentally conscious to use no electricity? Come to think of it, who needs heat this winter...get a warm sleeping bag.

Israel Faces Pressure to Provide Air-Defense Systems to Ukraine

Kyiv hopes new government in Jerusalem, Russia’s use of Iranian-made drones will help make case for assistance

The Iron Dome missile-defense system fired to intercept rockets launched toward Israel in Ashkelon earlier this year.

By Alan Cullison, and Dion Nissenbaum WSJ

Nov. 12, 2022 5:30 am ET

Pressure is building on Israel to send weapons to Ukraine, as Moscow steps up strikes against the country’s civilian infrastructure, and Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to review Israel’s approach to the conflict if he returns as prime minister as expected.

Russia in recent weeks has been using drones supplied by Iran, Israel’s traditional enemy, as part of a punishing air campaign, which Kyiv says has affected more than 40% of Ukraine’s power grid. Ukrainian defense officials say Israeli expertise could be crucial in surviving Russia’s assault and are hopeful the U.S. ally is ready now to cooperate.

Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, said he feels a strategic shift might be on the horizon with Mr. Netanyahu returning to power as prime minister. On the campaign trail, Mr. Netanyahu said that he would consider providing more military support to Ukraine if he regained the post. An aide to Mr. Netanyahu didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“The new collaboration between Iran and Russia in the military field is pushing Israel into closer cooperation with Ukraine against a common enemy,” Mr. Korniychuk said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter recently that he hoped Mr. Netanyahu’s return to power would open a “new page in cooperation” between their two countries. Israeli President Isaac Herzog is expected on Sunday to give Mr. Netanyahu the power to form the country’s next coalition government, which could take shape quickly.

How Israel’s Iron Dome Works

Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and mortars. Here’s how it works. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Mr. Zelensky called Mr. Netanyahu after the election to congratulate him on his victory and encourage him to shift Israel’s military calculations. Mr. Netanyahu repeated his campaign pledge to reassess Israel’s policy toward Ukraine.

While much of the focus has been on the Iron Dome air-defense system, Israel has a number of other air-defense systems that could help Ukraine protect its airspace. Iron Dome is designed primarily to neutralize short-range rockets and small drones, not the kinds of longer-range missiles and larger drones Russia is using in Ukraine. Kyiv is also interested in acquiring Israeli Barak-8 surface-to-air missile systems, which are designed to be used against incoming missiles, drones and aircraft.

Israeli officials said the country has a limited supply of air-defense systems it can sell without jeopardizing its own security needs at home.

Speaking at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s headquarters last month, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Israel had military technologies that could help Ukraine, but didn’t mention Iron Dome or other Israeli defense systems.

“There’s a whole series of Israeli systems that are quite capable,” said Gen. Milley, who in a September visit to Israel saw demonstrations of the country’s defense capabilities.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council referred questions about enhanced cooperation with Israel for air defense for Ukraine to the government in Jerusalem. “We of course welcome any steps other countries take to support Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression,” the spokeswoman said.

Moscow has already sounded a pre-emptive warning to Israel not to arm Ukraine. Last month, Russia’s former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said any move by Israel to bolster Kyiv’s forces would destroy all bilateral ties between the two countries.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel has rebuffed appeals from Ukraine for air-defense technologies that Israel has used successfully to defend itself against short-range rockets and small drones that have primarily come from Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Analysts say, however, that Russia’s closer military cooperation with Iran in Ukraine is hard for Israel to ignore, since the conflict is fast becoming a new de facto proving ground for Iranian weaponry.

During his first official visit to Washington in late October, Mr. Herzog defended Israel’s decision not to provide military aid to Ukraine. Mr. Herzog said Israel was providing humanitarian aid and help in creating a more efficient early warning system to alert civilians of incoming airstrikes.

“There are things that we cannot supply due to national-security interests of utmost importance,” he said at an Atlantic Council event.

Israeli officials worry that sending weapons to Ukraine could disrupt a delicate truce that Israel arranged with Moscow in Syria, where Russian and Iranian forces are supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Israel has been bombing Iranian forces there regularly, while making efforts to avoid hitting the Russians, a feat that requires some cooperation with Moscow.

Israel and Russia have a hotline they use to avoid Russian casualties by warning Moscow before targeting military bases in Syria, according to Israeli officials. Overall, the coordination has worked, and in all of the Israeli strikes, no Russians have been killed.

“Right now circumstances require Israel to have a complex relationship with the Russians in Syria,” said Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Russia has been pretty deferential to the Israelis in Syria, and they don’t want to disrupt this.”

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