Israel offers to mediate between Russia and Ukraine


What happened: Yesterday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine to end the war.

  • On Friday Bennett spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who asked him to reach out to Putin on his behalf.
  • At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Bennett said: “I want to express hope that this conflict will be resolved before the war develops further and before there are humanitarian repercussions that are far worse than we can imagine. We pray for the wellbeing of the citizens of Ukraine and we hope that further bloodshed will be avoided.”
  • He added, “We are acting in a measured and responsible manner.”
  • Over the weekend thousands of Israelis demonstrate against the Russian invasion and in support of Ukraine.
  • The Israeli Foreign Ministry is focused on helping Israeli citizens flee Ukraine across land borders to the west. Around 2,000 Israelis have left Ukraine since the fighting began on Thursday morning, with an estimated 3,000 remaining.
  • Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on the Ukrainian Jews to immigrate to Israel. Confirming he will make available any budget needed to absorb new immigrants from Ukraine.

Context: Prime Minister Bennett was in the unique position of speaking to the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine as Israel has close ties with both countries.

  • Sources in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office noted that Israel had updated the US administration before and after the call with Putin.
  • Since the outbreak of the war on Thursday Israel has attempted to articulate a multi-faceted policy. Foreign Minister Lapid called the Russian attack on Ukraine “a grave violation of the international order.” Whilst Prime Minister Bennett has not mentioned Russia in his public statements.
  • Israel faces a difficult dilemma. It is reliant on coordination with Russia to protect vital Israeli security interests in Syria. On the other hand, morally Israel stand with the US, UK and western allies supporting Ukrainian independence.
  • This balancing act was on display on Friday at the UN. Israel rebuffed the US request to join 80+ countries sponsoring a resolution that condemned Russia. However when the text reached the UN General Assembly Israel did support the motion.
  • The Russian Embassy in Israel released a statement saying, “Russia has heard the Israeli position and, on the one hand, understands the concerns about the Jewish communities in Ukraine but, at the same time, we hope that Israel will display a ‘wise and diplomatic position’ with respect to the reasons that led Russia to attack. Israel is in possession of the relevant material that will help it better understand our position.”
  • Last night, the Russian Embassy declared that security coordination over Syria between Israel and Russia would continue, stating, “This mechanism has proved to be effective, and it will continue to operate,”
  • In addition, Israel is heavily reliant on Ukrainian food imports, including grain, wheat and eggs. Yesterday Minister for Agriculture Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) clarified that there would be no shortages in wheat and will now increase in the local production of eggs.
  • Along with helping Israelis citizens, Israeli diplomats have also been assisting Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptians to evacuate from Ukraine, transporting them alongside Israelis.

Looking ahead: Efforts to evacuate the remaining Israelis from Ukraine will continue along with assisting the 200,000 Jews in Ukraine.

  • Israel will send 100 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine tomorrow, including water purification kits, medical equipment, tents, blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Israel will have a dilemma whether or not to join the international sanctions against Putin.