Israel has provided Ukraine with information to help its forces neutralize the Iranian-style drones that Russia is using against Kyiv, according to a report by The New York Times.
The report does not go into great detail but does suggest that Israel is awakening to the reality of the Iranian drone threat and how it impacts Ukraine, as well as the need to respond to pressure and questions about why Israel hasn't done more for the war-torn country.
Reports that Israel might assist Ukraine on the informational level – via intelligence or other details that help Kyiv down or protect against the drones – could be a best-of-both-worlds way to help Ukraine; it has plausible deniability and is not a militaristic intervention.
Israel has supported Ukraine since Russia's invasion began on February 24, but has been reluctant to be involved in the conflict beyond rhetorical support or on the humanitarian level.
In recent weeks, however, more questions have been levied against Jerusalem as to why it isn't doing more, especially when it has become clear that the Iranian drone threat is now harming Ukraine; the same one that Iran hurls at Israel.
Basically, this means Iran has intervened in the Ukraine war and is heavily backing Russia, not only with drones, but also by sending IRGC members to Crimea, according to reports, to help Russia's drone operators.
Months ago, reports circulated that Russia was interested in acquiring drones from Iran. This has become a concrete threat in recent weeks, with evidence, including videos, of dozens of Iranian-style drones being used to terrorize Ukrainian civilians and attack Ukraine's infrastructure and power network.
Russia is using drones to harm Ukraine before the winter sets in, setting up a humanitarian disaster. Moscow has chosen Iran as a closer partner, adding to the destabilization it already caused.
Israel expressed concern about Russia's role in Syria, which has led to caution. As elections near, and a fresh maritime deal is being signed with Lebanon, Jerusalem is getting even more involved in Ukraine.
Providing Kyiv with ways to intercept the drones is a scenario that could be a way to back Ukraine without sending arms. The beleaguered country needs air defenses and radars, and may need a way to jam the drones, or even a way to help local troops use other means to neutralize them.
Ukraine received four new radars, according to the website Defense Blog: "German sensor specialist Hensoldt announced that it is supplying four of its high-performance radars in record time for Diehl Defence's IRIS-T SLM air defense system, which is designed to strengthen Ukraine's defense capability." This will improve Kyiv's ability to detect threats.
A plethora of options when it comes to stopping drones
Those charged with intercepting the drones need good command, control and communications; they may need multi-layered integrated air defenses, but they also need to be able to track through sensors, issue warnings and identify and classify the drone threats. Then, they would need to be able to relay information quickly, warning people to go to shelters and identifying the right systems on the route of the drone to neutralize it.
This can mean missiles, guns, or other systems. Today there are systems that use lasers, microwaves, or even drones to take out drones. There are fire control systems that can go on rifles as well.
Ukraine desperately needs more assistance, although it is already downing about 50%-70% of the drones and missiles Russia is using, according to Ukrainian reports. But Kyiv can't stop all the threats. Some of the drones get through and wreak havoc on civilians and the country's energy grid.
Russia is using drones indiscriminately to harm Ukraine's morale and plunge the country into darkness. But they are slow moving and they may not be as effective as precision weapons against military targets.
Iranian drones to impact the Middle East
The implications of the drone threat are clear: The Russia-Iran drone program will eventually impact the Middle East.
Iran is learning from watching how Russia uses the drones; much the same way Tehran exported drones to Yemen for the Houthis to use.
Iran has been testing drones for years and using them in attacks, such as the one on Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia in 2019; and against a ship in the Gulf of Oman in 2021.
Iran has also increasingly used them against Israel. The opportunity for Jerusalem to help Kyiv regarding the drone threat, even if this is only an issue of sharing information, provides a best-of-both-worlds scenario for now, since Israel continues to be reluctant to ship military hardware to Ukraine.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.