According to an Ukraine official Israeli PM Bennett pushed President Zelensky to surrender to Russia in a phone call on Tuesday which he did not accept.
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Almost always, diplomatic efforts to defuse situations in which Israel’s Prime Minister is involved revolve around the resumption of hostilities in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. The Ukraine-Russia war, on the other hand, has become the most high-profile diplomatic engagement of the post-Netanyahu era so far.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett startled the international community when it was discovered that he had travelled to Moscow undercover to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an apparent attempt to broker a peace treaty.
Bennett had informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesky and French President Emmanuel Macron of his travel to Moscow before it became public knowledge, according to reports.
Bennett then proceeded to Germany to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz to address the commencement of the Russia-Ukraine war, among other concerns, after 3 hours of deliberations in the Kremlin.
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Bennett’s visit coincided with ongoing ceasefire negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian authorities in recent weeks. The convergence of those diplomatic activities resulted in Russia’s first concrete offer to stop the conflict, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who stated that Putin offered to cease the war if Ukraine met four requirements. Putin’s terms, according to Peskov, were as follows:
- any military action against Russia has come to a stop,
- recognition of Crimea as Russian territory,
- the recognition of the Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics’ sovereignty, and
- modifying Ukraine’s constitution to strengthen their position as a neutral state in eastern Europe, acting as a buffer between Russia and NATO member nations.
Putin’s ostensible olive branch was met with scepticism by Ukraine and the international world, who cited the massive secession of territory to Russia as inconceivable. Bennett has surprisingly veered from the sentiment echoed by that worldwide response in the days since the original peace offers were put on the table.
According to the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, and Ukrainian sources, Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu met with Zelensky again on Tuesday and advised him to accept Putin’s terms. The claim was refuted by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Bennett began the phone call with Zelensky, according to sources in Ukraine, in which he appealed for him, saying, “If I were you, I would think about the lives of my people and take the offer.”
The plan did not sit well with Zelensky, who responded with a curt “I hear you.” No more information about what Zelensky said to Bennett was immediately available from Ukrainian officials.
Bennett’s counsel was interpreted by Zelensky and his inner circle as instructing Ukraine to submit, which they all agreed would not happen. Those same officials believe Putin’s demands are only the beginning of his larger plans to annex more of Ukraine’s territory.
According to Hebrew news outlets, a senior Ukrainian official said “Bennett has proposed that we surrender.” “We have no intention of doing so. We know that Putin’s proposal is just the beginning.”
According to the source, Israel has also advised Ukraine to stop requesting military or defence aid from Israel, since this could jeopardise Jerusalem’s efforts to mediate and maintain neutrality.
Bennett’s call to Zelensky is a change from the two leaders’ previously cordial relationship. Following the Israeli Prime Minister’s proposal, Ukrainian officials adopted a more aggressive stance against Bennett, denouncing his role as a mediator.
One official stated, “We don’t need a mailbox. We have enough of those. If Bennett wants to be neutral and mediate, we would expect to see him appoint someone to work on it day and night and try to get a compromise.”
The spat between Bennett and Zelensky comes only days before a meeting between Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yvgeni Kornichuk and Knesset Chairman Mickey Levi, which is expected to take place next Tuesday.
The point of their meeting is to agree on Zelensky giving a speech to the Knesset in the same format as his recent speech to the US Senate. Israel is the only country with which Ukraine has engaged in diplomacy with Russia that hasn’t fully reflected NATO member states’ sentiments.
Given Israel’s central prominence on the global arena, their position aids Russia’s efforts to end the war on their terms. This unanticipated development occurs at a very critical time for Russia, which has been engulfed by western-imposed sanctions.
As a result, Russia has turned east, forming deeper ties with China and India, among others, in an effort to lessen the impact of the sanctions. Surprisingly, Israel has joined that group following Bennett’s most recent meeting with Zelensky, in a way that appears to have caught the Ukrainian President completely off guard.
Zelensky is likely not alone in his reaction, since Israel’s attitude is unquestionably a watershed moment in which the Ukraine-allied axis is compelled to modify its calculus in the face of a reality in which Russian support is larger than previously anticipated.