Bennett offers Israel as mediator for Russia-Ukraine ceasefire

Ukrainian ambassador to Israel praises “only democratic state that has excellent relations” with both Russia and Ukraine.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett suggested that Israel serve as mediator to broker an end to the Ukraine – Russia conflict during a phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Sunday morning, according to the Kremlin.

Bennett’s proposal came after Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky requested that the Israeli premier host negotiations in Jerusalem, rather than staging talks in Belarus, which is widely seen as a non-neutral setting due to Russia’s influence in the country.

“We want the negotiations to take place in Jerusalem,” KAN News reported Zelensky as saying in a recent phone call with Bennett.

“We think that Israel is the country that could hold such negotiations in the middle of the war.”

The Kremlin did not elaborate on their response to the proposal.

“We have been talking to the Israelis for at least the last year about a possible intermediary role for Israel,” Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told Reuters on Friday.

“Our leadership believes that Israel is the only democratic state that has excellent relations with both countries.”

An unnamed senior Israeli official told Hebrew-language media that during the call with Bennett, Putin had expressed willingness to negotiate.

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Putin and Bennett recently met in October 2021 in Sochi, Russia, with Soviet-born Israeli Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin serving as a translator.

The two leaders reportedly hit it off, with Putin phoning Bennett additional times after their meeting and giving him a tour of the presidential palace.

There was a “very special atmosphere in the room” and “good chemistry” between Bennett and Putin, Elkin recalled, adding that what was originally slated to be a two-hour meeting stretched into a five-hour visit.

Israel has been careful to toe the diplomatic line regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, issuing carefully worded statements expressing solidarity with the Ukrainian people but falling short of formally condemning Russia.