Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew in for a secret meeting with Vladimir Putin and later phoned Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss the war in Ukraine as he coordinates crisis efforts with the US, France, and Germany.
Bennett’s meeting took place ‘with the blessing of the US administration,’ his office said, to discuss the safety of Ukraine’s Jewish population and Iran’s nuclear program. Russia threatened to derailed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Saturday – a deal that Israel opposes, according to Fox News.
The Israeli PM had offered last week to act as a mediator between the two countries, to which Putin had replied that he was ‘ready for negotiation.’
Bennett, a religious Jew, flew to Moscow in violation of Sabbath law because Judaism permits this when the aim is to preserve human life, his spokesperson said.
He was accompanied by his Ukrainian-born housing minister, Zeev Elkin. Elkin had in the past accompanied former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an interpreter in his talks with Putin.
In their three-hour meeting in the Kremlin, the Israeli official said, Bennett also raised with Putin the issue of the large Jewish community caught up in the war in Ukraine.
While Israel, a close ally of the United States, has condemned the Russian invasion, voiced solidarity with Kyiv and sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine. It also will send medical teams to Ukraine next week to set up a field hospital that will provide treatment for refugees, its Health Ministry said.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a practicing Jew, broke the Sabbath law and flew to Russia (pictured) to meet with Vladimir Putin on Saturday to discuss the war and the Jewish population in Israel
Bennett phoned Zelensky (right) after his three-hour meeting with Putin (right). It is unclear what he discussed exactly with Zelensky. Israel has denounced Putin’s invasion into Ukraine, but said it will keep in touch with Putin to hopefully ease the crisis. Israel will also be sending aid to Ukraine
Bennett has said it will maintain contact with Moscow in the hope of helping to ease the crisis.
Israel, home to a substantial population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, is also mindful of Moscow’s military support for President Bashar al-Assad in next-door Syria, where Israel regularly attacks Iranian and Hezbollah military targets. Communication with Moscow prevents Russian and Israeli forces trading fire by accident.
Bennett and Putin also discussed the ongoing talks between world powers, including Russia, and Iran about reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.
Russia said on Saturday that Western sanctions imposed on it over its invasion of Ukraine had become a stumbling block for the Iran nuclear deal. Israel opposes any revival of the deal.
Bennett and Putin had met previously met (pictured in October)
Bennett spoke with Zelensky over the phone after his meeting with Putin before headed to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his spokesperson said. It is unknown what he spoke to the Ukrainian leader about.
French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken to Bennett before he flew to Moscow to brief him on his own conversations with Putin, the Elysée Palace said.
‘They will stay in touch with the aim of obtaining a ceasefire, and this in coordination with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz,’ an Elysée official said.
Bennett is coordinating his efforts in the crisis with the United States, France and Germany, an Israeli official said.
Israeli ally, the US announced it is working with Poland in order to orchestrate a deal that would allow Polish fighter jets to be flown by pilots from the Ukrainian Air Force in order to combat Russia’s air superiority.
The deal would see Ukraine take Poland’s 28 Russian-made MiG-29 warplanes, which would be replaced by a fresh set of F-16’s by the United States.
The Polish Air Force operates both types of fighter aircraft in its combat operations. The Ukrainians need the Russian MiG’s fighters rather than F-16’s, because those are the aircraft on which they have been trained to operate.
Ukraine fears attack from the air may soon be the go-to choice of tactics by Russia after their ground offensive appears to be making far slower progress than the Kremlin had anticipated.
The White House is now working out the practicalities of carrying out such a deal, including the crucial question of how the Ukrainians would physically be able to get their hands on the planes.
‘There are a number of challenging practical questions, including how the planes could actually be transferred from Poland to Ukraine.
‘We are also working on the capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine,’ a White House spokesperson said to the Financial Times.
The Israeli PM had offered last week to act as a mediator between the two countries, to which Putin had replied that he was ‘ready for negotiation,’ despite his forces continue to push toward Kyiv
Israel will send medical teams to Ukraine next week to set up a field hospital that will provide treatment for refugees, its Health Ministry said
Poland, which is a member of NATO, would need to play the situation delicately and not be seen to overtly supporting the war unilaterally.
The Polish government is concerned Russian President Vladimir Putin would see the Ukrainian’s being given warplanes as a direct escalation or even NATO interference.
On Saturday, Putin said he would see any institution of a no-fly zone by a third party as ‘participation in the armed conflict’.
‘Poland is not in a state of war with Russia, but it is not an impartial country, because it supports Ukraine as the victim of aggression. It considers, however, that all military matters must be a decision of NATO as a whole,’ a Polish official said.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has previously brushed aside the entire idea noting that supplying the planes would be seen as essentially interfering in the conflict.
But the idea of Poland tacitly allowing Ukraine to borrow its fighter jets was given the thumbs up by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, who both argued that is NATO were refusing to set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine, then it could at the very least supply the Ukrainian air force with fighters.
‘It is no secret that the highest demand that we have is in fighting jets, attack aircraft, and air defense systems,’ Kuleba said in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Saturday.
‘If we lose the skies, there will be much, much more blood on the ground, and that will be the blood of civilians.
In a call with around 300 US lawmakers, Zelensky made an emotional plea for Poland to receive F-16 fighters from the US and other European countries in order for the plan to work according to The Financial Times
Washington is now examining ways in which is can help provide further military support to Ukraine. Earlier this week it sent anti-aircraft stinger missiles.