Israel offers to mediate a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call Sunday he would offer to mediate and broker a ceasefire between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Kremlin said.
Why it matters: The call came two days after Zelensky called Bennett and asked him for a mediation following Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Zelensky's request was published first on Israel's public broadcaster Kan.
- Bennett is the only Western leader who has spoken to Putin in recent days. Israel maintains good relations with both Ukraine and Russia.
- An Israeli official told Axios that Israel notified the Biden administration ahead of the phone call between Bennett and Putin and briefed the U.S. afterward about what was discussed.
Driving the news: The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Bennett discussed the situation in Ukraine during their phone call, which was initiated by the Israeli side.
- Putin noted that the Russian delegation is in the Belarusian city of Gomel and is ready for negotiations with representatives of Kyiv. Zelensky rejected the offer to hold talks in Belarus saying it was not neutral territory.
- "Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku — we proposed all that to the Russian side. Any other city would work for us, too, in a country from whose territory rockets are not being fired," Zelensky said.
- According to the Kremlin, Bennet said that he would offer Israel's intermediary services in order to suspend hostilities. Putin and Bennett agreed to maintain contact.
An Israeli official said Bennett told Putin he is concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the possibility the fighting will escalate and lead to grave humanitarian damage.
- The official said Putin told Bennett he is ready for negotiations. “In this context the prime minister said that Israel is ready to help in any way it will be asked and at any moment to try and bring the parties closer together to end the crisis,” the official said.
- The official added that Bennett proposed the mediation because of Israel’s relationship with both sides.
Flashback: Last October, in a meeting in Sochi, Bennett had proposed to Putin to hold a Russia-Ukraine summit in Jerusalem. Putin at the time wasn't at all enthusiastic and harshly criticized Zelensky.