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US weapons transfer from Israel to Ukraine: A game-changer?

A few weeks ago, the US armed forces sent to Ukraine weapons it had stored in Israel for emergency use.

A well-informed Israeli source said in an exclusive statement to Anadolu: "American equipment that was stored in Israel was transferred to the American armed forces (and then to Ukraine) a few weeks ago at their request."

Israel has declined to send Israeli weapons to Ukraine despite repeated requests by the Ukrainian government. Since the beginning of the war last February, Israel has restricted itself to sending humanitarian equipment to Ukraine.

However, Nimrod Goren, the head of Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, told Anadolu that this step may not represent as big a change as it seems at first glance.

"The talk is about American weapons stored in Israel. They are not Israeli weapons, and the decision to transfer them is an American decision and does not reflect an Israeli position."

He added: "Israel has repeatedly declared that it will not supply Ukraine with weapons and that it will suffice with humanitarian aid. Therefore, in terms of what the Israeli position is, I do not think that this step represents a change in the rules of the game.”

According to The New York Times, about 150,000 artillery shells from stockpiles in Israel were transferred to Ukraine.

But Arkady Mil-Man, a senior researcher and head of the Russia Program at the Institute for National Security Studies, told the Israel Broadcasting Corporation: "It is unlikely that the Russians will receive this news well. Even today, Israel has refrained from supplying offensive weapons to Ukraine. By doing so from stocks in Israel, Israel has involuntarily supported Ukraine."

However, he noted that “the Russians understand that this is American ammunition, and that Israel does not have many options when facing considerations of transferring American weapons systems around the world. Therefore, this decision will not decisively affect Israeli-Russian relations.”

Good ties with Putin

The Israeli position is expected to become clearer at a meeting this weekend of dozens of countries at Ramstein base in Germany to discuss boosting military aid to Ukraine.

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority said on Wednesday that a senior Israeli Defense Ministry representative will take part in the meeting.

"Dror Shalom, director of the Politico-Military Affairs Office of the Israeli Defense Ministry, participated in previous meetings, but this time the meeting is much more important because it will discuss the supply of tanks and advanced equipment to Ukraine in preparation for the broad offensive that Russia will launch in the spring, as expected by the West," the Israeli Broadcasting Authority said.

"Israel, of course, will not help militarily, but its mere participation in the meeting is expected to spark anger in Moscow," it said.

Goren said that Israel’s political center is talking loudly about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while the right wing is more cautious.

"Netanyahu has good relations with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and wants to maintain these relations, and as Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said, the current government's policy will talk less about Ukraine."

"Humanitarian aid to Ukraine may continue, while reducing the tone of criticism of Russia compared to the criticism that (former Prime Minister Yair) Lapid directed at Moscow," he said.

Goren stated that the Netanyahu government "will certainly try to be on the side of the United States of America, but in a way that gives Israel room to maneuver in this regard."

Source: Anadolu Agency