Israel and Ukraine are linked, and the US must stand with both

Almost without exception, lawmakers from both parties in Congress are eager to give Israel whatever it asks, from missiles to dollars. And that is as it should be, for Israel just became the victim of unspeakable barbarity and now needs stalwart support.

But in the very next breath, some of those same U.S. legislators, mainly Republican extremists in the House who are beholden to former President Donald Trump, want to deny Ukraine what that beleaguered country needs to survive as a nation. These MAGA demagogues don’t want to accept that Ukraine, too, is the victim of unimaginable — and indeed genocidal — aggression. Point out the inconsistency, and they’ll protest indignantly that the two conflicts mustn’t be linked, for they are, as a far-right think tank puts it, “separate and distinct.”


Distinct they may be, and yet perhaps not so separate anymore. There’s a practical way in which support for Ukraine and Israel may be about to become conflated. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is thinking of bundling both into one package in Congress, thinking that the only way to keep money, ammo and guns flowing to Ukraine is to tie this help to support for Israel. If the House Republicans were less chaotic and less Trumpy — more like the Senate Republicans — this step wouldn’t even be necessary.

But leave legislative stratagems aside for a moment, and ask the bigger question: Are the situations in Ukraine and Israel in fact connected in other ways?

Biden as well as most Democrats and Republicans in Congress have so far been staunch supporters of both countries. In particular, they’ve stood with Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his war of aggression against that nation, and with Israel after what Biden called the “pure, unadulterated evil” that Hamas committed there in recent days.

In both cases, the aggressors — Putin’s invasion force and Hamas, respectively — use terrorist methods, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who happens to be Jewish and immediately expressed his solidarity with Israel, has been pointing out. Putin’s soldiers and Hamas both torture, rape, kill, maim and abduct. Both in their own ways have genocidal goals and want to eliminate a nation — Putin the Ukrainians, Hamas the Israelis.

Cheering on their crimes, moreover, is largely the same cast of other villains. The Iranians are supplying drones to Russia for use against Ukrainian civilians and also money and weapons to Hamas and other terrorists for their fight against the Zionists. The Chinese are cynically dispassionate about both conflicts, calculating that their interests lie with Moscow and Tehran, whose support Beijing may need if and when it too wants to become the aggressor, in the Taiwan Strait or South China Sea.

As for the two victim nations, much divides them — not least a history of Slavic anti-Semitism. But they also share long and bitter memories of trauma, of Holocaust and Holodomor. Today, perennial self-defense has forged both peoples into warrior nations, determined to survive in neighborhoods that teem with mortal enemies.

Much about their situations is different. The Ukrainians are confronting a much larger state, a former superpower that happens to have the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and keeps threatening to use them. The Israelis, by contrast, are fighting a sub-state paramilitary organization that could never wipe out Israel’s statehood as Egypt and Syria briefly seemed close to doing during the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago.

Ukraine, moreover, is an independent country and member of the United Nations defending itself against another state that has, perversely, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and yet won’t recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukrainian defeat would therefore be tantamount to tearing up the UN Charter as such. Israel, meanwhile, is facing a group, Hamas, that is just one of several claiming to represent a people, the Palestinians, who still lack their own state.

Nonetheless it’s the similarities — moral, geopolitical, conceptual — that matter more. Both Ukraine and Israel are flawed democracies, but democracies nonetheless; they are open societies defending themselves against atavistic autocracies and theocracies. They’re on the front line in the struggle that may define our time: the clash between freedom and tyranny, law and violence, order and chaos, light and dark.

All these parallels make it inexcusable that some American conservatives who should know better choose to ape their strongman idol, Donald Trump, regurgitating elements of Putin’s disinformation and misrepresenting the Ukrainian war for national survival as little more than a distant territorial dispute. In so doing, they’re also raising alarm bells in Taiwan, which “sees its fate tied to Kyiv’s.”

If they don’t like Ukraine and Israel being bundled in one appropriations bill, I therefore have a better suggestion.

Now that the House Republicans seem close to choosing the less extreme candidate as their new speaker, let their caucus come to its senses and make a legislative linkage unnecessary. Let all American lawmakers accept that the U.S. and its allies have interests and responsibilities on both battlefields — and must find a way to support both Israel and Ukraine until each prevails.

Andreas Kluth is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering US diplomacy, national security and geopolitics. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist.