Cabinet approves extension of Ukrainian refugees’ humanitarian aid

The cabinet on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to the extension of some 14,000 Ukrainian refugees’ humanitarian aid, after the assistance briefly lapsed due to a budgetary shortfall.

A government statement said the over NIS 42 million ($11.5 million) in aid was secured by cutting 0.06 percent of all ministry budgets for 2023.

The aid will see the refugees’ health insurance and social assistance benefits extended until the end of the year.

The cabinet will review further extension of the measure at a later date.

The government last week said it had been unable to renew aid for Ukrainian refugees due to a lack of funding, in response to a High Court petition on the matter. This came after it had vowed to extend benefits after a two-week lapse.

As part of a bilateral deal, Ukrainians without a visa can enter Israel and visit for up to three months. Due to the ongoing war, Israel has extended the visas of non-Jewish refugees after a cap limiting their entry was struck down by the High Court of Justice. Those with Jewish roots have automatic rights to become citizens under Israel’s Law of Return.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine’s embassy in Israel to the cabinet decision. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly criticized Israel throughout the war over its treatment of Ukrainian visitors.

A fleet of ambulances wait to transport elderly and infirm Ukrainian refugees at Ben Gurion Airport on April 27, 2022. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk earlier this month threatened to close the country’s borders to Israeli pilgrims making their way to the city of Uman for the upcoming annual Rosh Hashanah festivities to retaliate for Israel deporting Ukrainian tourists.

Jerusalem reportedly dismissed it as a baseless threat.

Ukraine has also urged Jerusalem to supply it with defensive weaponry throughout the war, particularly missile interceptor capabilities, but Jerusalem has so far refused, as Israeli leaders seek to avoid overly antagonizing Russia. The hesitance appears largely linked to Israel’s strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace. Israel is one of the few countries that maintains relatively good relations with both Ukraine and Russia.

Jerusalem has, however, been working with Ukraine on the introduction of advanced early warning systems to sound an alert of incoming Russian strikes as part of a pilot program that Kyiv hopes to eventually expand to the entire country.

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