JERUSALEM: Israel will not send weapons to Ukraine, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday, two days after Russia warned that an Israeli move to bolster Kyiv's forces would severely damage relations.
"Our policy vis-a-vis Ukraine will not change -- we will continue to support and stand with the West, we will not provide weapon systems," Gantz told a briefing of European Union ambassadors, according to a statement from his office.
Israel has walked a delicate diplomatic line since the start of the Russian invasion, seeking to preserve ties with Moscow.
Israel needs Russian cooperation to continue its campaign of air strikes in neighbouring Syria, where Russian forces are present and where Israel frequently hits what it calls Iranian-linked targets.
Israeli officials have also stressed the need to safeguard relations with Russia given the large number of Jews in the country and to avoid a return to Cold War era conditions, when Soviet Jews were largely cut off from Israel.
The Israeli stance has infuriated Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, has on several occasions blasted Israel for failing to firmly oppose Russian aggression.
The Israeli position has however evolved over recent months, from near neutrality to more forceful condemnations of Russia.
Gantz said Wednesday that Israel would continue providing "humanitarian aid" to Ukraine, including "life-saving defensive equipment" and was likely to approve "an additional package" soon.
But weapons supplies were off the table, "due to a variety of operational considerations," the defence minister added.
On Monday, Russia's former leader Dmitry Medvedev charged that "Israel appears to be getting ready to supply weapons to the Kyiv regime."
"A very reckless move. It would destroy all bilateral relations between our countries," the former president and prime minister, who is now deputy head of the Russian Security Council, said in a statement on Telegram.