Moscow on Friday lashed out at Foreign Minister Yair Lapid over a week after Israel joined with other countries to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over its invasion of Ukraine.
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement accused Lapid of an “anti-Russian attack” with his comments after the General Assembly vote last week, which marked only the second time a country has been stripped of its membership rights on the council.
“There is an effort to take advantage of the situation around Ukraine to distract the international community from one of the longest unresolved conflicts — the Palestinian-Israeli,” the ministry said.
The statement went on to rail at Israel for “the illegal occupation and creeping annexation of Palestinian territories.” It also bashed the blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which Israel says is needed to prevent arms from reaching terror groups in the enclave.
“It is also noteworthy that… the longest occupation in the post-war world history is carried out with the tacit connivance of the leading Western countries and the current support of the United States,” the statement charged.
It was not clear what specifically Lapid — who has accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine — said following the April 7 vote to draw Moscow’s ire.
A Foreign Ministry statement at the time denounced the “unjustified invasion” of Ukraine and accused Russian forces of “killing innocent civilians.” The statement quoted Lapid saying there was no change in Israel’s stance toward the Human Rights Council, which Jerusalem alleges 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 aligning too closely with 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 fellow Western democracy, and Russia, which controls the airspace over Syria, in which Israel operates to target Iranian proxies.
However, after irking the Biden administration by declining 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 moved slowly toward the West’s position against Russia more broadly, though there has been a delegation of responsibility 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 criticism. Both men condemned the massacre that took place in Bucha, but only Lapid fingered Russia as responsible.