Netanyahu says Israel and Ukraine ‘better together’

Kiev: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called for closer ties with Ukraine while meeting its recently elected President Volodymr Zelensky in Kiev.

Analysts say the trip is part of Netanyahu’s moves to bolster the standing of his Likud party among Israelis of Ukrainian origin ahead of legislative polls due on September 17.

“We can seize the future separately, but we can do it better together,” Netanyahu told Zelensky on the first visit to the country by an Israeli premier for two decades after his own in 1999.

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Netanyahu congratulated Zelensky, a former comedian, on his landslide victory in presidential polls in April and invited him to visit Jerusalem “soon.”

Zelensky said his ex-Soviet country, locked in a long-running separatist war with Russia-backed forces “could learn from Israel, especially in matters concerning security and defence.”

The two leaders were set to visit the Babi Yar memorial, the site of a major Holocaust massacre in April 1941 that saw more than 33,000 Ukrainian Jews shot dead by Nazi troops. 

More than a million people from Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries have moved to live in Israel — making up a fifth of its population. 

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Ukraine before the Holocaust had a large Jewish population in cities such as Odessa.

Zelensky is of Jewish descent but says religion does not affect his politics. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman is also Jewish.

Israelis of Ukrainian origin have historically been inclined to vote for the nationalist and pro-Russian Yisrael Beitenu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman.

Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies won the most seats in an April election but failed to forge a viable coalition.

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