image Photo: Flash90, Reuters

Israel offers to mediate Russia-Ukraine crisis

“Our leadership believes that Israel is the only democratic state that has excellent relations with both countries,” said Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk.

By Erin Viner

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly requested that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett broker a resolution to Kyiv’s conflict with Moscow, the envoy told Reuters, adding, “We have been talking to the Israelis for at least the last year about a possible intermediary role for Israel.”

Korniychuk said that President Zelenskyy’s latest – and fifth – call for Prime Minister Bennett’s mediation came during a Friday’s telephone conversation between the leaders on Friday.

The Kremlin announced that the Israeli Premier made just that overture during a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday.

The call came at Israel’s initiative, added the Kremlin.

Bennett‘s spokespeople have not been immediately available for comment. A statement communicated by the Prime Minister’s Foreign Media Adviser on Sunday confirmed only that he had spoken with Putin, and that “the two discussed the situation between Russia and Ukraine.”

An earlier statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office about Bennett’s conversation with Zelenskyy also made no mention of any proposed offer to mediate the crisis. “Bennett reiterated his hope for a speedy end to the fighting and said that he stands by the people of Ukraine in these difficult days,” said the statement.

An Israeli official cited by Reuters said that Prime Minister Bennett informed President Putin that he “is prepared to assist at any time, and as requested, to assist in resolving the (Ukraine) crisis and bringing the sides closer together.”

Jerusalem has been in contact with all sides of the conflict, senior Foreign Ministry official Gary Koren told the public Israeli Kan radio station. When asked whether Jerusalem’s relatively low-key condemnation of Moscow is intended to keep open the option of Israel serving as intermediary, he answered in the affirmative, saying: “Exactly as you described it.”

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants from both Russia and Ukraine have immigrated to Israel. Deep concern over the safety of the large Jewish communities which remain in both countries has prompted Jerusalem to offer shelter, medical aid and emigration help.

While calling for a peaceful solution to the crisis, Israel has been cautious about openly criticizing Russia, which has been major player in the civil war in neighboring Syria since intervening in 2015. Moscow has just confirmed its ongoing commitment the “deconfliction mechanism” with Israel regardless of the Ukraine offensive; in a defense system aimed at preventing inadvertent clashes between their militaries as Russia works to preserve the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid frequent alleged IDF strikes against Iranian deployments and arms transfers to its proxies in the Arab Republic.

While Foreign Affairs Minister and Alternate Premier Yair Lapid declared that Israel condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine as a “serious violation of the international order,” he stopped short of condemning Moscow or its leadership while underscoring his nation’s “deep, long-lasting, and good relations with Russia and with Ukraine.”

Prime Minister Bennett has been publicly restrained in his remarks about the fighting in Ukraine, and he has yet to publicly acknowledge any prospective mediation role in the conflict.

” We are praying for the wellbeing of the citizens of Ukraine and hope that additional bloodshed will be avoided,” he said during televised remarks at the opening of his cabinet’s weekly meeting yesterday, underscoring that his government is “conducting a measured and responsible policy.”

Prime Minister Bennett also announced the shipment of 100 tons of Israeli humanitarian equipment for civilians in the combat zones and those who are trying to leave.

“The Foreign Ministry and its personnel have been working around the clock to assist the Israelis who are at the border and want to leave there and come home,” said the Premier, thanking the staff for carrying out what he referred to as “sacred work.”

He concluded his remarks saying, “Again, I would like to express the hope, on behalf of all of us, for a return to peace and quiet for Ukraine.”