Just about the time Iranian drones supplied to Russia began appearing in the skies over Ukraine last week, press reports surfaced purporting a company in Israel is moving to step around the nation’s formal refusal to take sides in the conflict by ushering anti-UAV defense systems to Kyiv using Poland as an intermediary.
First published by the Hebrew language site Zman Yisrael and picked up by its sister publication The Times of Israel, the report alleges that an unnamed defense company plans to deliver the anti-UAV system to an entity in Poland, knowing Ukraine is the intended recipient.
Despite the system qualifying as “advanced defensive technology” that’s banned by Israel for sale to Ukraine, neither the national government nor the Defense Ministry appears inclined to quash the delivery of anti-UAV assets that may wind up being used against Iranian-supplied drones being operated by Russia.
The timing of the reported transaction and appearance of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones flown by Russia in the war is almost certainly coincidental, but the significance of Israel’s inaction to stop the transfer of the anti-UAV tech to Ukraine could be significant.
During most of the conflict, Tel Aviv largely sought to safeguard its relationship with Moscow by not taking sides. That included refusing to join the group of nations supporting Ukraine with military aid. Even before the invasion, Israel reportedly overruled US plans to equip Kyiv with Israeli-made Iron Dome missile air defense batteries.
In addition to preserving its wider diplomatic ties to Moscow, Israel particularly wants to avoid jeopardizing what thus far has been the willingness of Russia’s military in Syria to permit Tel Aviv to strike Iranian proxies in the country. For that reason, Israel has largely limited its aid to Ukraine since the start of the war to non-combat material like helmets, flak jackets, and humanitarian supplies.
That neutrality may be evolving, however.
In July, Israel began directly funding civil organizations in Ukraine working to deal with effects of the war. Should the reports be accurate of the government being complicit in – even in a passive manner – Israeli anti-UAV systems being transferred to Ukraine, the development could pave the way for wider support of Kyiv’s defensive efforts.
The temptation to take that further still would presumably increase, meanwhile, with widening deployment in Ukraine of the same kind of Iranian military assets Israel considers a threat to its own national security.