Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet has revealed his attempts to act as a mediator in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War.
His largest achievement on this front, Bennet said in a podcast with Israeli journalist Hanoch Daum, was pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin to promise that he will not kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for the concession that Ukraine will abandon its efforts to join NATO. Putin also supposedly agreed to drop Russia’s demand that Ukraine disarm itself as a precondition for peace. These negotiations fell apart quickly, however.
Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba responded to Bennet’s remarks, arguing that Putin’s promises have never held up, implying that the former Israeli Prime Minister was wrong to trust Putin in the first place.
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Bennet discussed the difficult position he perceived Israel to be in when the war broke out — “between a rock and a hard place.”
While Bennet said that he did not support Russia’s invasion, he made clear that first and foremost, he was concerned with “Israel’s interests.” He described how Israel’s relationship with Russia was vital for Israeli security, given the country’s influence over Syria and Iran, two of Israel’s largest state adversaries.
Specifically, he cited Israel’s routine attacks on the “Iranian presence” in Syria, as well as the long-range “S-300” missiles that Russia has stationed inside the country.
Bennet also noted that he had developed a personal relationship with Putin in Sochi several months before Russia’s full-scale invasion, which allowed him to act as a mediator, much like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, between Russia and the pro-Ukraine West.
These limitations, Bennet argued, are what prevented him from supplying Ukraine with military assistance and why his aid to Zelensky’s country was only humanitarian.
The former Prime Minster attempted to describe the conflict from what he perceived to be an unbiased view, as a third party to the conflict.
Bennet said that the West sees Putin as purely imperialistic.
“Once it’s Georgia, once here, once there — Don’t reward the thug,” he remarked.
He also said that if Ukraine were to fall into Russian hands, the West expects that it would only be a matter of time before Putin order’s the Russian military into “Poland and the Baltics.”
Bennet also implied, however, that Putin’s NATO expansion narrative, in which the United States broke its promise to not expand NATO eastward after the unification of Germany, is not without merit.
Bennet also cited the “Monroe Doctrine,” the American foreign policy doctrine that argued that the United States alone has the right to its sphere of influence in the Western hemisphere. He said that Russia’s “red line” against NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence is Putin’s version of the Monroe Doctrine, implying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not unlike the many interventions that the United States has conducted in Latin America against Soviet and communist-backed leftists over the past century.
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