(A7) Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday spoke to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, telling him in a phone call that he suggests Zelenskyy surrender, so as to end the war with Russia.
The news initially broke on Friday, and Bennett’s office denied the report.
In the phone call, Bennett recommended that Zelenskyy accept the offer presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war. That offer included a long and harsh list of compromises on the part of Ukraine, a senior official in the Ukrainian government told Israel’s Walla! news site.
Zelenskyy did not take Bennett’s suggestion.
“If I were in your place, I would think about the lives of my people, and take the offer,” Bennett told Zelenskyy in the phone call, according to the Ukrainian official. According to him, Zelenskyy’s response to Bennett was short: “I heard you.”
Zelenskyy and his men did not like Bennett’s suggestion.
“Bennett suggested we surrender,” the Ukrainian government official said. “We have no intention of doing this. We know that this offer of Putin’s is just the beginning.”
He explained that Bennett is not actually mediating, but rather serving as a “mailbox,” sending messages between the sides.
“We do not need a mailbox. We have enough of those,” the government official said. “President Zelenskyy’s office does not believe that this is the way to mediate. If Bennett wants to be neutral and mediate, we would like to see him appointing someone to work on this day and night and try to reach a compromise agreement, and not only serve as a mailbox.”
According to a report by Barak Ravid on Walla!, Zelenskyy and his men are under the impression that Bennett’s diplomatic involvement stems mostly from a desire to refrain from taking a clear stance on the Russian invasion, due to fears of harming his relations with Moscow.
“His initiative seems to us as a cover-up and excuse for why he has not come out more harshly against Russia, why he is not providing us with weapons, and why he has not enacted sanctions against Russia,” the official said.
Zelenskyy suggested that the negotiations with Putin take place in Jerusalem, and said that Israel can ensure that security is provided for the Ukrainians. Zelenskyy also said that he “hopes for significant and positive influence by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the conversations with Russia.”
“Regarding Prime Minister Bennett – we in principle and I personally relate positively to anyone’s help in the negotiations,” Zelenskyy said. “At the same time, I do not relate to Mr. Bennett as to ‘anyone,’ because I think he has the ability to fill an important role. Because Israel definitely can fill a role such as this (to host the discussions), and especially Jerusalem. I think so, and I said this to Mr. Bennett.”