The Israeli and Ukrainian governments have denied allegations that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recommended that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accept the Kremlin’s demands. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post reported this on their websites on Friday.
According to this, Bennett, officially appointed as mediator, is said to have advised in a phone call on Tuesday to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to end the war, even if it meant Ukrainian concessions. The two outlets referred to a statement by a Kiev official.
Kiev government adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter on Saturday that “for political and military reasons” Bennett did not advise accepting Russian demands: Israel, on the other hand, asks Russia to “assess the situation more adequately “. The “Jerusalem Post” reported on Saturday that in addition to Ukraine’s senior representative, an Israeli official also objected to the reports. Haaretz wrote, citing a source close to Bennett: “The prime minister did not recommend Zelenskyy to accept Putin’s offer because Israel does not know what that offer is. In any case, Bennett does not intend to give Zelenskyy any recommendation or advice.” , how he should behave at any stage”.
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According to the above report, President Zelenskyj is said to have curtly replied “I hear you” in the conversation with Bennett, then, as is known, rejected Putin’s demands. According to Israeli newspapers, the call was initiated by Bennett, but his mediation was “futile”.
Russian President Putin has demanded that Ukraine give up its planned NATO membership, commit to neutrality and recognize Crimea and Donbass as non-Ukrainian territories.
The Ukrainian head of state Selenskyj has recently signaled concessions on issues about NATO and breakaway territories, but also demanded “security guarantees from the West”: one is only willing to give up NATO membership if there are guarantees, for example, from the US. In addition, Russia must recognize the “sovereignty of Ukraine”.
As reported, both Kiev and Moscow accepted the mediation of the Israeli head of government: Prime Minister Bennett visited Moscow and Berlin over the weekend. Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevhen Kornijchuk, also stated that he could envision Jerusalem as a place for Russian-Ukrainian negotiations.
President Zelenskyy also suggested the Israeli capital as a possible location for negotiations with Putin in Kiev on Saturday. So far, the talks have been held in Belarus, which is itself a war party on the Russian side, and in Turkey. Selenskyj argued for a different location: “Do I think Israel can be such a country, and Jerusalem in particular? Yes, I do.” The Kremlin did not rule out a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy in principle.
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Israel traditionally has good relations with Kiev and Moscow; there are many citizens with Israeli papers who live both in Ukraine and in Russia. In Israel itself there are millions of residents who come from the states of the former Soviet Union or who emigrated from Russia and Ukraine in the years after reunification. In many places in Israel – restaurants, shops, service areas – the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine flies these days.
The Jerusalem government currently has a problem because of its allies: Israel does not want to provoke the United States as a partisan, which is clearly opposed to Russia. At the same time, there are agreements with Moscow, whose army won the war there for the Syrian regime, that is, it is seen as a factor (albeit controversial) of stability in the neighboring country of Israel.
Israeli and Ukrainian diplomats are currently exploring whether Zelenskyy can make a video speech at the Knesset plenary session. If the speech does not take place in the Israeli parliament, Selenskyj wants to check if a speech at the Yad Vashem memorial is possible, possibly also a virtual appearance in a Tel Aviv square. According to the Israeli media, the mayor of Zelenskiy, Ron Huldai, already informed him that he would take care of this.