Israel’s Prime-Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Moscow on Saturday and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to mediate between Ukraine and Russia.
The meeting lasted reportedly for three hours but it is too early to assess if it was successful. It came as a surprise for two reasons.
First, Israel and Bennett personally have been hesitant to mediation because of Israel’s sensitive relations with Russia. Despite repeated and increasingly desperate calls from Ukraine’s President Zelensky on Israel to mediate, Bennett has been sitting on the fences.
Zelensky, himself of Jewish origin, has said that he expected more from the Jewish state and expressed his frustration with Israel for not doing enough to support Ukraine and mediate with Russia.
Second, Bennett who is religious and keeps the Shabbat when it is forbidden to travel, made an exception, quoting the Jewish rule which allows the violation of religious rules to save lives.
Before and after his meeting with Putin, Bennett informed Zelensky about his mission. He also coordinated his mission with the US, Germany and France. In fact, directly after the meeting, he continued to Berlin to meet the German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz, whom he had already met in Jerusalem some days ago.
Kremlin confirmed the meeting to “discuss the situation surrounding Ukraine” but judging from other statements on Saturday there is little hope of an immediate breakthrough in Israel’s mediation attempt. Putin continued to warn that Ukraine’s statehood is in jeopardy and blamed Ukraine for the war because of its resistance to the Russian invasion.
He also called the sanctions imposed by the EU, the US and other Western countries a “declaration of war” against Russia.
Dr. Yonatan Freeman, an International Relations Expert at Hebrew University, told earlier The Brussels Times in an interview that Israel is one of the best choice for a country which could serve as a mediator because of its close links to both sides.
“We understand the cultural aspects of both sides, as large numbers of Jews from Russian and Ukraine live in Israel and are members of our government and even defence establishment. Israel may also be able to offer something to both sides in return to make such a negotiation possible, or even a ceasefire.”
The Brussels Times