Eli Cohen Israeli Foreign Minister
(Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen)

Israel to speak ‘less publicly’ about Russia-Ukraine issue

Israel’s newly sworn-in Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stated on Monday (Jan. 2) that the coalition government would be more reserved regarding the Russia-Ukraine issue, Haaretz reported.

In his first address, Cohen, who took office last week as part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new hard-right coalition government said that on the Ukraine crisis, “we will do one thing for certain – speak less publicly.”

The Likud lawmaker stressed that Israel would continue to provide “significant humanitarian assistance” to Ukraine, but refused to comment on Kiev’s demand for defensive weapons from Israel.

Cohen also announced he will speak to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday (Jan. 3).

Later on Monday, Cohen spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who congratulated him on his appointment and underscored the United States’ abiding commitment to the U.S.-Israel partnership and to Israel’s security.

“Secretary Blinken discussed continued U.S. efforts to advance mutual interests such as Israel’s further regional integration, including through the Negev Forum; address shared challenges, including the threat from Iran; and promote the values that have been at the heart of the bilateral relationship for decades” a statement issued by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price read.

Cohen also said that he has spoken to the U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and took the opportunity to reaffirm his country’s strategic partnership with the United States, underlying that “there is no substitute for Israel-US relations.”

Cohen’s remarks came amid the several handover ceremonies that took place on Monday, transferring the reins of power from Yair Lapid’s government to the new Netanyahu-led outfit. The coalition, made up of Jewish ultranationalist and religious parties, has already prompted an unprecedented uproar from Israeli society, including the country’s defense establishment, businesses, secular Jews and others.

The Times of Israel noticed that when US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted his congratulations to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new government, he hailed strong ties between Jerusalem and Washington, but did not stress, as it is the habit, shared values.

The central bank of Israel raised its key interest rate by 50bps to 3.75% today pushing borrowing costs to the highest since 2008, and in line with market forecasts. It marks a seventh straight meeting of rate increases.

The Israeli shekel plunged nearly 13% against the United States dollar in 2022, marking the worst period since 1998.

With reporting by Haaretz, The Times of Israel, Middle East Monitor