Israel Offered to Mediate Ukraine Crisis, Says Kremlin

Russia confirms Israeli offer to mediate, after Ukraine reportedly asked Jerusalem to host talks between Moscow and Kyiv last week

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A demonstrator holds up a sign at a protest in front of the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, Saturday.
A demonstrator holds up a sign at a protest in front of the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, Saturday.Credit: JACK GUEZ - AFP

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett offered Israel's services as a mediator to bring peace to Ukraine in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

It said the conversation had been an Israeli initiative and that Putin told Bennett that Russia had its delegation in the Belarusian city of Gomel ready to negotiate with Kyiv, but the Ukrainian side had "not seized the opportunity, in a show of incoherence".

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An Israeli official said Bennett told Putin that Israel "was prepared to assist at any time, and as requested, to assist in resolving the crisis and bringing the sides closer together".

An Israeli official also said on Sunday that the United States was briefed on Jerusalem's offer to Russia to help resolve the Ukraine crisis. "Ukraine and the U.S. were briefed before and after PM Bennett's conversation with President Putin. Putin was open to Israel's offer," the official told Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Government Secretary Shalom Shlomo attend a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on Sunday. Credit: POOL/ REUTERS

The offer followed months of Ukrainian appeals to Israel to serve as intermediary. Israel has good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, and Bennett has been publicly restrained in remarks about the fighting in Ukraine.

Ukraine's embassy in Israel issued a statement on Sunday, “Saluting Bennett” for his efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.

"Ukraine highly values the proactive incentive of the Government of Israel to promote the mediation process and to stop Russian offensive in Ukraine," the statement said.

"The people of Ukraine are suffering from Russian invasion, the civilians, including kids are dying, and Ukrainian cities are on fire. Any effort of our international partners and friends to stop the war and launch negotiations is priceless. In this regard, we salute Prime Minister Bennett’s initiative for mediation between Ukraine and Russia."

The New York Times reported on Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to mediate talks in Jerusalem in an attempt to resolve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

The request was made during a phone call between the two leaders, The Times added, quoting the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk. An Israeli official who requested anonymity confirmed that the request was made, The Times said.

“They didn’t say no,” Korniychuk said.

Israel – who had remained vague regarding its position on the conflict in an effort to maintain relations with Russia – has seemingly changed its tune. Ahead of the offer to mediate between the two nations, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made an official statement on Friday condemning the Russian invasion, calling it a blatant violation of the international order.

Israel is home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. It is also mindful of the well-being of the two countries' large Jewish communities.

Sam Sokol contributed to this report

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