Strengthening ties: Ukraine and Israel: painful history, friendly future

16:30 Nov. 26, 2016

Ukraine and Israel: painful history, friendly future

Ukrainians attend a rally named Ukraine and Israel against terrorism and separatism at the Independence Square, in Kyiv, 1 November , 2015. (GettyImages Photo)

Politicians from two countries gather in Kyiv to talk about the ups and downs in their relations 

Ukraine and Israel are looking to build common future, despite the controversial history in the past, politicians from the two countries proclaimed during a forum in Kyiv.

Several high-ranking members of the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) attended the event, dedicated to strengthening the ties between the two nations.

The forum took place two months after the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin said that ‘many Ukrainians were accomplices to the crimes against Jews in Babi Yar and other places during the WWII'.

While the statement caused resentment and outrage in Ukraine, the countries said the past wouldn't hinder their cooperation in the future.

‘During the Holocaust, there were Ukrainians, who risked their lives to save Jews, like former Knesset speaker Shevah Weiss, but there were Ukrainians who cooperated with the fascists and took part in killing Jews. This is our history. Question is, what are the lessons learned', Edelstein said in his opening speech.

He also said that some of the people through historical belief were deemed by Ukrainians as ‘fighters for freedom and independency', but these persons were ‘seen differently' by Jews.

‘I believe the two governments are going to find a formula that will allow us remember the tragedy, and still create the base of future, of walking together. I understand, our two countries have a lot of tragedies on their back, but if we want to find a future together, we need to give the right respect to the past', the Knesset deputy speaker Yoel Hasson said.

The two nations have been steadily establishing close ties over the last few years. Back in 2011 they lifted visa requirements for entering the countries. During the war in Donbas, Israel became the frontrunner in providing medical treatment and rehabilitation to Ukrainian soldiers, wounded in the conflict zone.

Read also: A NAFTA-like deal for Israel and Ukraine?

Last June Ukraine and Israel reached a consensus on the partial labor market liberalization, and President Poroshenko announced further talks on the free trade agreement. Ukraine insists it is open to negotiations on every question, including the painful history.

‘Murderers don't have a nationality. Murderers don't have names of their organizations. It doesn't matter how certain terrorist acts were done or why. We are united with Israel on this issue, we have total mutual understanding, and we should continue to help each other, develop and help', Ukrainian lawmaker Heorhii Logvynskyi said.  

There are still political issues that both countries hope to resolve. At the forum, Ukrainian politician Hanna Hopko expressed hope that Israel would recognize the Soviet-created terror famine Holodomor a genocide of Ukrainians.

Watch also: Ukraine's President Poroshenko addresses Israel's parliament

Israel also hasn't joined the sanctions against Russia, but at the same time Israeli military instructors help Kyiv combat the Kremlin's aggression.

These issues are of a delicate nature, and politicians say they are working on a consensus, but as Mr. Hasson pointed out, ‘these are not the issues that need to be discussed publicly'. 

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