Moscow on Friday clashed with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid over a week after Israel joined forces with other countries to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Lapid of an “anti-Russian attack” with his comments following last week’s General Assembly vote, which marked only the second time a country has been deprived of its membership rights in the council.
“There is an attempt to exploit the situation around Ukraine to distract the international community from one of the longest unresolved conflicts – the Palestinian-Israeli,” the ministry said.
The declaration continued to run against Israel for “the illegal occupation and insidious annexation of Palestinian territories.” It also beat the blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which Israel says is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching terrorist groups in the enclave.
“It is also remarkable that … the longest occupation in post – war world history is carried out with tacit conviction from the leading Western countries and actual support from the United States,” the statement said.
It was not clear what specifically Lapid – who has accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine – said after the vote on April 7 to arouse Moscow’s anger.
A statement from the Foreign Ministry at the time condemned the “unjust invasion” of Ukraine and accused Russian forces of “killing innocent civilians.” The statement quoted Lapid as saying that there was no change in Israel’s attitude towards the Human Rights Council, which Jerusalem claims has an anti-Israel bias, without referring to Russia or its invasion of Ukraine.
There was no response from Lapid or the Foreign Ministry to the Russian statement.
Israel has avoided joining too closely to either side since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. It is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a co-western democracy, and Russia, which controls the airspace over Syria, in which Israel operates to target Iranian agents.
After annoying the Biden administration by refusing to co-sponsor the first UN Security Council resolution against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Israel has since joined the West in condemning Russia in several UN resolutions.
Jerusalem has also slowly moved towards the West’s position on Russia more broadly, although there has been a delegation of responsibilities between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who until recently sought to mediate between the sides and has largely avoided criticizing Russia, and Lapid, who has been much more vocal in his critique. Both men condemned the massacre that took place in Bucha, but only Lapid pointed to Russia as responsible.