The relationship between Ukraine and Israel dates back to 1947, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union. It was more widely recognized back then as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Ukraine was one of 33 states that pressed for a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine during the U.N. Partition Proposal in 1947. The Soviet Union broke off relations with Israel in 1967 after the Six-Day War only to restore diplomatic relations in 1991.
Incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922, Ukraine belonged to one of the original constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). They encouraged ethnic Russians to settle at the borders of Ukraine. Among them was a large community of Soviet Jews whom the Ukrainians regarded as a positive contribution to the development of a new society within the freshly established state of the Soviet Union.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine gained independence. Recognizing the sovereign state of Ukraine, Israel opened its embassy doors in Kiev. Ukraine reciprocated, opening its embassy in Tel Aviv. Since that day both states have continued stable bilateral relations. Recently, both nations have taken steps to improve those relations even more.
On the 22nd of January, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Stepan Poltorak spoke with his Israeli counterparts regarding sending Ukrainian Special Forces to Israel.
Further enhancing the relationship between the two countries, on the 21st of this month, Israel’s Economy Minister Eli Cohen and his Ukrainian counterpart, Stepan Kubiv, signed a free trade agreement. There was even a ceremony in Jerusalem attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The agreement includes free Israeli access to the Ukrainian market, including many products that have so far been subject to import taxes. In return, Israel will give tax benefits to many products from Ukraine.
Additionally, on the 28th of this month, 250 Ukrainian Jews landed in Israel as part of a relocation program. This was made possible with support from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (ICFJ). Those Ukrainians will now seek to make Israel their new home.
Moscow will undoubtedly maintain a close eye on the developing relationship between the two states. This latest move will certainly come as a blow to the superpower. Israel and Russia’s relationship has already been strained by the two nations’ opposition in the Syrian Civil War. The two countries have knocked heads on the battlefield and have supported opposing strategies pertaining to the future of the Assad regime.