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Naftali Bennett’s Calculated Effort to Engage with Vladimir Putin on Ukraine and Iran

Author: Bernard Avishai

Affiliation: Dartmouth, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Organization/Publisher: The New Yorker

Date/Place: March 14, 2022/USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1943



Keywords: Israel, Jerusalem, Ukraine, Putin, Russia, Iran, Naftali Beneett


This author examines Israel’s position and role in the Russian-Ukrainian war, in light of opinions by many experts from Israel and abroad who have provided different insights. A few days ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Israel is a good place for negotiations that, in his view, cannot take place in Russia, Ukraine or Belarus. Those statements vindicated Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s mediation efforts that began a week earlier. Bennet, in turn, stressed that Israel has a moral duty to help in the Ukrainian crisis, which stems from the credibility Tel Aviv enjoys in the eyes of Kyiv and Moscow. Notably, even though the west has almost completely isolated Russia, Israel still maintains a normal relationship with Moscow.  However, Bennett so far has repeatedly stressed that he is simply an impartial meditator that simply conveys each side’s message to the other, a position that aligns with Israel’s quasi-neutrality as Israel is still housing and shielding wealthy Russian-Jewish oligarchs who fund campaigns and influence politics in Israel. On the other hand, Tel Aviv has dismissed Ukraine’s cries to send weapons.  This impartiality maintained by Bennett, who presents himself as a trusted statesman, might hurt Israel eventually. As Putin is clear in his refusal to back down, not fully standing with the West “might inevitably damage Israel’s special relationship with the US for no real gain.” On the Israeli-Russian side, Israel is keen on maintaining its relationships with Putin to maintain his tolerance of its continued attacks in Syria. Both sides seem to be aware of each other’s position, while Ukrainian and Russian officials have already been meeting in Turkey. What utility does Bennet have in light of that? According to reports, Putin is hopeful that Bennett can convince the Ukrainian side of a certain arrangement that maintains Ukraine’s Sovereignty and Zelensky’s presidency. Another matter where Israel and Russia converge is Iran. The two sides agree on the Iranian file for different reasons. “Bennett is in the curious position of approving Russian insistence on unencumbered trade with Iran to sabotage the deal that would give Iran unencumbered trade with the rest of the world.” In conclusion, “Israel has a choice to make on two fronts: on both expediencies that are arguably in Israel’s security interest but are challenged by Israeli security experts, and correspond with Putin’s interests.”

By: Hamza Emir, CIGA Research Assistant



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