If Israel Is America's Closest Ally, Why Isn't It Toeing Line on Russia?

Jewish State Takes Pointedly Neutral Stand on Ukraine

On the Fence: Israel is usually one of the U.S.’ most staunch allies, but has abstained on resolutions criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
getty images
On the Fence: Israel is usually one of the U.S.’ most staunch allies, but has abstained on resolutions criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 25, 2014, issue of May 02, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

“Israel is America’s most reliable friend,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee states on its website. This notion has been put to the test in recent weeks, as Israel has parted ways with the United States on the major issue of how to respond to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

Israel refused to support an overwhelming, American-led condemnation of Russia at the United Nations General Assembly and has adopted a neutral posture regarding the conflict, marking a rare departure from the nearly automatic mutual support Israel and the United States provide each other in the international arena. And this has angered Washington and perturbed some Israel advocates.

“We are shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Dan Arbell, a former senior Israeli diplomat who now teaches at the American University in Washington. “Representatives of Israel always say that Israel is the only country in the region and one of the few in the whole world that always votes with the U.S., and now we see this change.”

Arbell called the Israeli vote “a big mistake.”

Israel chose to sit on the fence, officials explained, out of concern that condemning Russia would sour relations with a nation playing a key role in Syria’s civil war and in nuclear negotiations with Iran, two issues of top concern for Israel.

It is too early to judge whether this policy regarding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict reflects a major shift in Israeli orientation or just a short-term tactical maneuver. Even the latter outcome, however, could spell trouble for Israel advocates in America.

The shift “just plays into the hands of those who want to make the case against us,” said an official with one pro-Israel group, who would not speak on record because of the organization’s policy. But the issue has yet to be raised where it would matter most, he said: by lawmakers or their staff members on Capitol Hill.

The communal official added that American support for Israel is multifaceted and does not depend solely on Israel standing alongside the United States in the international arena.

A spokesman for AIPAC declined to comment on the impact Israel’s position on Ukraine could have on the pro-Israel lobby’s work or on making the case that Israel remains America’s closest ally.

Israel’s decision not to participate in the March 27 U.N. General Assembly vote condemning Russia for annexing Crimea triggered significant tension with Washington. One hundred member nations backed the resolution, which the United States drafted, with only 11 voting against it. Israel did not participate in the vote.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.