New Israeli foreign minister passed messages from US to Russia – report

Top diplomat Eli Cohen said Israel would “talk less” about its stance on the war in public.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s new Foreign Minister Eli Cohen conveyed messages from the U.S. to Russia at the behest of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a senior Israeli diplomat told Times of Israel on Tuesday.

According to the official, during a phone call between Blinken and Cohen on Monday, the secretary of state asked his Israeli counterpart to relay the messages during a phone call the next day with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The content of the American messages was not disclosed by the official.

Neither Israel nor the U.S. mentioned Russia in their readouts of the call between the top diplomats.

According to the official, Blinken was aware that he would be speaking to Cohen ahead of his call with Lavrov, the report said.

Cohen also took a call with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday, but according to a Ukrainian official, Kyiv was annoyed by the Israeli diplomat’s decision to speak first with Lavrov.

In his inaugural address on Monday, Cohen said that Israel would continue to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine but he would “talk less” about its stance on the war in public settings.

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Republican Senator Lindsey Graham slammed Israel for not clearly backing Ukraine.

Israel has been cautious about taking sides in the war and is one of the only western democracies to share strong ties with both Russia and Ukraine. Jerusalem also coordinates all military strikes on Iranian targets in Syria with Moscow.

“The idea that Israel should speak less about Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine is a bit unnerving,” Graham said in a tweet.

“I hope Mr. Cohen understands that when he speaks to Russia’s Lavrov, he’s speaking to a representative of a war criminal regime that commits war crimes on an industrial scale every day,” Graham said.

The diplomatic official told Times of Israel that “when the minister said we would talk less, the intention was Israel’s attempts at mediation, the public nature of which — in his opinion — harmed Israel.”

The report also cited Israeli sources as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be open to mediate if asked by either Ukraine or Russia.

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine collapsed after several weeks.

Netanyahu has said in the past that he would consider sending defense aid to Ukraine if elected, but on a phone call last week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he would not commit to such a measure.