- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, 2022 Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.

As Bennett Meets Putin, Will Israel Mediate Between Russia and Ukraine?

© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov / Go to the mediabank[FILE PHOTO] Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sochi, 22 October 2021
[FILE PHOTO] Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sochi, 22 October 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.03.2022
Shortly after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, the Israeli prime minister rushed to Germany where he met Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The premier has also spoken with French leader Emmanuel Macron and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
A third round of talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations is set to take place on Monday and the two sides are expected to discuss the establishment of humanitarian corridors and steps that need to be taken to resolve the crisis.
Since the beginning of Russia's military operation in Ukraine on 24 February, the teams have met twice but no high-profile officials from the Russian side have been present.
The Kremlin has already indicated that there was no plan for Putin to hold direct talks with Zelensky. But does Moscow need a mediator in talks with Kiev?

Potential Mediator?

A potential one has been found. On Saturday, Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, an observant Jew, who keeps Sabbath, rushed to Moscow, where he held a three-hour meeting with the Russian president.
Vladimir Putin speaking on the phone - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
Putin Assures Israel's Bennett Russia Ready to Talk to Ukraine, Says Kiev Showing 'Inconsistency'
That meeting was coordinated with the US, Germany, and France, and shortly after the visit to the Kremlin, Bennett made his way to Berlin, where he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He has also made sure to speak to France's President Emmanuel Macron and Zelensky, who had earlier accused Bennett of not "being wrapped" in the Ukrainian flag.
According to reports, Putin has warned Bennett not to provide the Ukrainian side with any Israeli weapons and technologies. The Israeli premier asked the Russian leader to agree to establish a number of humanitarian corridors and to allow those who want to immigrate to Israel to leave.
He has also asked Putin to maintain their coordination in Syria and reiterated the repercussions of the shaping deal between Iran and the West round the former's nuclear programme.

Taking Chances

Bennett wants these negotiations to succeed. It is not only because such mediation can bring Israel international praise and recognition; prior to the hostilities, the Jewish community in Ukraine consisted of some 200,000 people, and in recent months many have been leaving the country and immigrating to Israel. Others are still stranded in the country, and the Israeli PM wants to make sure they can escape.
Reports suggest that Zelensky believes these negotiations will yield little results. Israeli sources that cite Ukrainian officials say the Ukrainian president hasn't heard "anything new" on the stance or the goals of the Russian leader.
In Washington, Bennett's efforts are also viewed with scepticism, primarily because some American officials believe it is "pointless to talk with Putin," who will not change his mind about the military operation in the Ukraine.
And how is it viewed in Israel? Some experts are optimistic. The Calcalist, one of Israel's leading news websites, published an article saying that Israel has a good connection with the Russian leader, and it also maintains reliable partnership with Washington and other international players.
Other publications like Ynet doubt Bennett will succeed in a place where others failed, and it has also warned that a failure in the mediation process might eventually harm Israel and its position on the international arena.
"If it turns out that Putin only used Bennett and misled him, this campaign will claim tough prices – and not just a vigorous political mockery...," wrote a Ynet journalist Nadav Eyal.
"The strategic duty of every prime minister is to protect relations with the United States, to strengthen support for Israel in the Congress and the White House. So what's left for us is to hope that this mediation campaign will not hurt our positions," he summed up.
Right now, Bennett is taking chances. The upcoming days will show if he has made the right decision.
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