The Russian ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, stormed out of the Israeli parliament chamber during an event marking Victory Day after some lawmakers condemned the war in Ukraine.
According to Israeli media reports, one Knesset member who criticized Russia was Ukrainian-born Evgeny Sova of the Yisrael Beytenu right-wing party, who called Russia’s war on Ukraine a “slap in the face for our grandparents who fought the Nazis.”
The ambassador then reportedly left the plenum irritated when additional Israeli politicians accused his country of committing war crimes.
Sova, who was speaking at the moment the ambassador rushed out, later explained that Viktorov had “urgent meetings and had to leave the Knesset anyway.” According to The Jerusalem Post, this was confirmed by the Russian Embassy.
Ever since Russia intervened militarily in the Syrian civil war in 2015 and tipped the scale in favor of President Bashar al-Assad, Israel has sought the Kremlin’s consent before launching air raids on Iranian targets in the country. Israeli air campaigns are usually coordinated with the Moscow in order to avoid accidents between Israeli and Russian forces.
One such accident occurred in 2018, when a Syrian anti-aircraft destroyed a Russian plane during an alleged Israeli missile strike. Russia also gave its promise to Israel that it would keep Iran and its proxies 53 miles away from the Israeli Golan Heights.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Israel has tried to remain cautious in its criticism of Russia’s actions and maintain a neutral position. Responding to criticism and pressure from western countries, including the United States, Israel cited its military coordination with Russia in Syria and its concern for the safety of Jews in Russia and Ukraine.
However, as the war has progressed, some Israeli officials – including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – have shifted their position and publicly condemned Russia on several occasions. Israel has also sent humanitarian aid and protective gear to Ukraine.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has refrained from speaking out directly against Russia. Bennett flew to Moscow in the midst of the invasion, in an attempt to mediate between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Bennett, however, did condemn controversial anti-Semitic remarks made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who claimed that the fact that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is a Jew, “does not negate the Nazi elements in his country.” He added that he believes “Adolf Hitler also had Jewish blood.”
Lapid also blasted Lavrov's remarks as "unforgivable and outrageous," and demanded an apology.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that Putin did later apologize over Lavrov’s comments in a phone conversation with Bennett last week, although the Kremlin did not mention the word apology in its statement about the phone call.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.