Mar 24, 2022 - World

Zelensky aide: Ukraine appreciates Israel's mediation, but wants more support

People follow the speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky being broadcast outside Habima Theater in Tel-Aviv
President Volodymyr Zelensky being broadcast outside Habima Theater in Tel Aviv. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Andriy Yermak, Volodymyr Zelensky's chief of staff, said Thursday that while the Ukrainian president appreciates Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s mediation efforts, he wants more Israeli political support, weapons and the Pegasus spyware.

Driving the news: Since the Russian invasion began, Bennett has been one of the few leaders who is in regular contact with Vladimir Putin, including passing messages between the Russian president and Zelensky in an attempt to reach a ceasefire.

  • Bennett spoke to Putin on Wednesday and discussed the situation in Ukraine.
  • Bennett is expected to brief Secretary of State Tony Blinken about the mediation efforts during his visit to Israel early next week.

What they're saying: Yermak spoke to me as part of an hour-long joint Zoom interview with four Israeli reporters. A big part of the interview focused on Bennett’s mediation efforts and Israel’s policy regarding the war.

  • “We think Bennett is ready to do whatever it takes to bring peace to our land and stop the war," Yermak said.
  • "But there is one thing everyone needs to understand — there are compromises Ukraine is never going to make," he added.
  • "We will not compromise on our independence, our territorial integrity and our sovereignty. This is something Prime Minister Bennett knows. I hope and I am sure his mediation will be successful."

Between the lines: Yermak was careful not to criticize Bennett directly. He said the Israeli prime minister and his advisers are deeply knowledgeable about the situation in Ukraine and understand the different issues.

  • He stressed that since his first call with Bennett, Zelensky felt the Israeli prime minister’s intentions were serious.

Yes, but: Yermak said that Bennett’s neutral approach is not helpful. He said that his conclusion from two years of negotiations with the Russians was that it doesn’t work if the mediator doesn’t take sides.

  • “Israel needs to make it clear that this is a war and an aggression. We hope our Israeli friends don’t have a problem with that. Even when you are mediating, it needs to be clear who is the aggressor and who is defending his homeland," Yermak said.
  • While Israel condemned the Russian invasion at the UN, it has maintained a neutral stance in the mediation efforts. Israeli officials have told the U.S. and other allies that they need to take a careful approach to the Ukraine crisis to ensure military cooperation with Russia in Syria continues.

What to watch: Zelensky’s chief of staff said Ukraine wants more Israeli military support, including the Iron Dome anti-missile system and Pegasus cyber spying software.

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