Israel’s muted response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are expressing frustration with what they say is a lack of action from one of the U.S.’s closest allies, and are still holding out for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to condemn the Kremlin more than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine.
“They ought to be stepping up like the rest of the world. I don’t understand it,” Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said last week according to CNN. “I understand it’s because they feel they have some red light, green light from Russia about attacks on Iranian assets in the Middle East … but that’s, it’s very disappointing, especially considering the massive amount of military aid we’ve provided to them.”
Israel has been thrown into a tough diplomatic position since the start of the war as it attempts to maintain its relationship with the Kremlin while standing with its Western allies.
Israel has supported United Nations resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion and Mr. Bennett has attempted to broker peace between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the prime minister has yet to explicitly condemn Russia’s aggression himself.
Lawmakers say Israel, which has received $3.8 million in military assistance from the U.S., could also do more in terms of providing military aid to Ukraine.
Israel has focused efforts on humanitarian efforts, including establishing a field hospital in Ukraine.
But Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat, told CNN that Israel could do more.
“They have a lot of capacity, a lot of military capacity, so, they’re a pretty sophisticated country, we know that, so I think they could do more,” Mr. Cardin said.
Republicans have also called on Israel to take a more firm stance.
In an appearance before the Knesset earlier this month, Mr. Zelenskyy pressed Israeli lawmakers on why Israel had not imposed sanctions on Russia, sparking a flurry of tweets from Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican.
“Really good questions of Israel,” Mr. Kinzinger said on Twitter in response to Mr. Zelenskyy’s address. In a follow-up tweet, he proposed that the U.S. account for Israel’s response to Ukraine when considering future aid packages for Israel.
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“In this war, there is no middle ground,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in a later post after receiving criticism for his remarks. “Israel has to pick a side. Slam me all you want, but this is real and serious. “
Other lawmakers, though, have defended Israel’s need to balance complex international relationships.
“Israel‘s surrounded by enemies, Iran, Hezbollah out of Syria, Gaza, so I just think that they have a very delicate geopolitical balance that they need to keep,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, told CNN. “A lot of the strikes they conduct and things and activities that have to do against Iran in that region require deconflicting with the Russians, so they’re just in a tough spot. There’s just some realities to their position, their vulnerability.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen, Nevada Democrat, said Israel deserved credit for its humanitarian support to Ukraine.
“They’re taking a lot of Ukrainian refugees, they’re doing a lot of the humanitarian aid, and we’ll just have to continue to talk with them,” she told CNN.