A Ukrainian senior government official harshly criticized Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's effort to mediate the crisis with Russia.
The official said Friday that Bennett is "using the mediation as an excuse to justify the fact that Israel is avoiding transferring military aid to Ukraine or joining the sanctions slapped on Russia."
The official added that Bennett is serving as a mailbox between Ukraine and Russia and that the Israeli prime minister pressured Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's conditions for ending the war.
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Last week, Bennett met with Putin in Moscow to discuss the Ukraine crisis, followed by a phone call with Zelenskyy.
The two leaders met for three hours. Less than 24 hours after their meeting in Moscow, Bennett and Putin spoke again by phone. According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, Bennett also spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron following the phone call with Putin.
The official went on to say that mediation does not mean passing messages between the sides, adding that a mediator needs to present a viable compromise, "to reach a result. Should this happen we'll be grateful. Other counties can provide mail services and Israel's natural stance" has no advantage under these circumstances.
In his last phone call with Zelenskyy, Bennett tried to convince the Ukrainian president to accept Putin's offer, the official said.
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"When Bennett told him he should accept the Russian stance, Zelenskyy replied: 'I heard you, thanks,'" the official said, adding that Bennett wants Ukraine to surrender.
A source from Bennett's office later said that the Ukrainian official's description of the prime minister's conversion with Zelenskyy is untrue.
"The prime minister did not recommend that Zelenskyy accept Putin's offer, as Israel does not know what that offer is. In any case Bennett does not intend to give Zelenskyy recommendations or advice on how to act at any stage," the source said.
According to the source, the talk between Bennett and Zelenskyy was successful. "The prime minister's efforts are directed at one thing – to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine and the unnecessary suffering," the Prime Minister's Office added.
Zelenskyy is interested in speaking before the Israeli parliament next week. If Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy does not allow him to speak before the plenum, or guarantee that a significant number of lawmakers attend, he plans to speak before Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial or broadcast his speech to the Israeli public at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.
"Zelenskyy is exhausted from conversations with leaders, he wants to talk to the public," the officials explained.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy has begun mapping out the 20 major Israeli companies operating in Russia, in an attempt to persuade them to voluntarily join the sanctions next week, as other international companies have done.
This comes after the Israeli government clarified there is no legislation allowing it to force private companies to sever or limit ties with Russia.