- Along with President Putin - but in contrast to almost
everyone else - a large delegation of observers from Israel pronounced
the elections in Ukraine legitimate. The diplomatic repercussions could
- When the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament announced
on Tuesday night that there would be a summit meeting between
Leonid Kuchma, President Viktor Yushchenko and President Viktor
his words were met with derision by the community of Russian speakers in
Israel. But while elections in the country of three presidents aroused
wide interest in the community, the major topic of conversation soon became
the delegation of observers from Israel that was in Ukraine. In fact, this
subject has reached far beyond the community boundaries; it is also causing
distress in the Israeli embassy in Kiev, among the Jewish community in
Ukraine and even within Israel's Foreign Ministry.
- The delegation of observers sent from Israel to monitor
the Ukraine elections was put together by the Institute for the Study of
the CIS and Eastern Europe. There is no reason to feel uneasy if you have
never heard of this body. Since its establishment, in 2001, by former MK
Alexander Tsinker (Democratic Choice), the institute has not made
In fact, it has done very little. But all that changed instantly when 62
observers, most of them journalists in the local Russian media, went off
to Ukraine to monitor the presidential elections there. (About 15 of them
were Americans and Britons, some of whom are coming to Israel to take part
in the Jerusalem Summit, a right-wing conference supported by Michael
and Israeli businessman of Russian origin. This is undeniably an important
mission, worthy of representatives - even unofficial ones - of a democracy.
And here the Jewish genius once again proved its distinctiveness. Even
though almost the entire world is outraged at the disorder and perhaps
even the illegitimacy of the elections, a different message emerged from
the Israeli delegation.
- The Internet site Yamik, which is in Russian and
related that, in contrast to the complaints of the rest of the Western
world, "official observers from an international organization in
found no serious impediments in the voting process and described the
as legitimate and compatible with democratic norms."
- Similarly, the daily Pravda, an incarnation of the
Soviet newspaper, reported happily that "there are also other
and quoted the differing view of the observers from Israel. Even the
state television channel paid the Israeli observers a special tribute when
it quoted their finding that the elections were legitimate. The report
went on to quote Lev Varshenin, a reporter and commentator for the Israeli
Russian-language paper Vesty, who is described as "director of the
analytic branch of the institute," as having stated, in a press conference in Ukraine, "The observers reached the conclusion that it can
that the elections met the standards of democracy."
- If the observers from Israeli found departures from the
norm, they were seen only in western Ukraine, the area most closely linked
with Europe, and where the opposition candidate, Yushchenko, won a clear
victory. The international community is divided into two camps: Europe
and the United States on one side, Russia and Israel on the other.
to this pattern, the voting by the former Ukrainians in Israel was also
surprising: 80 percent of the 3,000 voters here, the highest number of
any Western country, cast their ballots for Yanukovich, the candidate who
is supported by Russia.
- In Israel and in the Jewish community of Ukraine the
reports were greeted with astonishment. The big question was the source
of the funding that made possible the large delegation's lengthy stay in
Ukraine. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has completely dissociated itself
from the delegation. MK Michael Nudelman (National Union), who is chairman
of the Israel-Ukraine Parliamentary Association, sounded angry. "How
is it that only our democrats say that the United States and the European
Union are lying, and only Russia and our delegation are in the right?"
he asked. "If Yushchenko becomes president, what kind of relations
will we be able to maintain with his government in the wake of the
- MK Roman Bronfman (Yahad-Meretz), the former political
ally of Tsinker, was also concerned. "I think that the participation
of an Israeli delegation in undemocratic elections whose legitimacy is
in doubt, does nothing to enhance Israel's international image," he
said cautiously. "The fact that this is an unofficial delegation,
whose identity is not clear, only heightens the damage."
- Whose money?
- The background against which this problem sprang up is
unclear. Tsinker rejects outright any allegation that the delegation is
ideologically or financially beholden to the Russia of President Vladimir
Putin, and says that he received the invitation to send a delegation of
observers from the "Clean Elections" organization. Tsinker was
unable to provide a precise reply about the organization's identity.
saw their request in Russian and Ukrainian, and I think it's a Ukrainian
organization," he says. "I don't know exactly who it belongs
to. When I talk to someone, I don't ask about his whole history. I took
someone to arrange all the details, hotels and expenses. I myself did not
enter the financial sphere. All I am interested in is the situation in
- One person who is very upset by the absence of more
is the chairman of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, Josef Zisels.
have a lot of questions and very few answers," he said by phone from
Kiev. "Who put the delegation together? Who paid the money? I asked
the members of the delegation, but they didn't answer. I asked in the
Embassy here, and they told me they don't know and they don't want anything
to do with them. I simply don't understand them. After all, it's absurd
that the whole Western world says one thing and only the Israeli delegation
says something else. I asked them about that, too, and they said they don't
see a lot of problems. I don't know how they didn't see what the others
saw. Maybe it has something to do with the source of the financing, but
I don't know."
- Zisels related that on the day before the elections the
local television news broadcast a short segment from an event held at the
Russian club in Kiev. The place, officially described as an intellectual
club, is one of the channels of influence of President Putin in Ukraine.
To Zisels' amazement, the faces of Tsinker and Varashnin also appeared
on the screen. "I was stunned," Zisels says. "This club
is known as the place of people who have good relations with [outgoing
Ukraine President] Kuchma, who supports Yanukovich. What were they doing
- Even if the astonishment expressed by Zisels (who
Yushchenko) is a vestige of Soviet paranoia, the fact remains that the
delegation from Israel left scorched earth in Ukraine. "It is a total
disgrace," says Dr. Alex Feldman of the Tel Aviv-based Mutagim
He is a permanent observer of elections in the republics of the former
Soviet Union, on behalf of the association of parliaments in Europe. This
time he was connected to the Tsinker delegation for technical reasons but
was not an integral part of it. "It's not the whole delegation that
spoke in this way, but a few people who are not very smart," he said
on his return to Israel. "I am convinced that the official report
that will be written will be different from these statements." And
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