| 26 February 2024, Monday |

Zelenskiy asks Israel to mediate with Russia, Ukraine envoy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy requested Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to intervene in the confrontation with Russia on Friday, according to the Ukrainian envoy to Israel, adding that it was the latest in a series of failed efforts from Kyiv.

“We’ve been talking to the Israelis about a possible intermediate role for Israel for at least a year,” Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk told Reuters. “Our leadership considers that Israel is the only democratic state with good relations with both nations.”

Bennett’s spokesmen did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Bennett’s contact with Zelenskiy was not included in an earlier statement issued by his office.

“Bennett repeated his wish for a rapid conclusion to the conflict, and stated he stands behind the people of Ukraine in these terrible days,” the statement said, adding that the prime minister offered humanitarian help to Kyiv.

According to Korniychuk, the leaders’ phone call on Friday was the sixth time Zelenskiy had requested Bennett for Israeli intervention, and he had previously asked former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Following up with the Israelis after one of the earlier appeals, “I heard (that) this offer was not well-accepted by the Russian side,” Korniychuk said.

Reached by Reuters, a diplomat at Russia’s embassy to Israel declined comment, saying he was not authorized to speak to the media.

While calling for a peaceful solution in Ukraine, Israel has been cautious about openly criticizing Russia, a major player in the conflict in neighboring Syria. It has offered shelter to members of Ukraine’s Jewish community caught up in the fighting.

Israel, whose main ally is the United States, condemned the Russian invasion on Thursday as “a serious violation of international order” and has since remained largely muted on Moscow’s actions.

The Israeli ambassador in Moscow was summoned for talks, the Russian embassy in Israel said on Friday.

“The hope was expressed that Israel would treat with due understanding the reasons that prompted the Russian leadership to decide to conduct a special military operation to protect civilians in Donbass, demilitarize and denazify Ukraine,” the embassy said.

  • Reuters