When Russia’s war with Ukraine began, a former Israeli prime minister briefly acted as a mediator.
He claims that by doing so, the Russian president promised not to assassinate his Ukrainian counterpart.
With his quick journey to Moscow in March of last year, the former prime minister Naftali Bennett emerged as an unlikely mediator in the early stages of the conflict, becoming one of the few Western officials to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
Bennett’s mediation efforts may not have had much of an impact on the ongoing bloodshed. Still, his comments in an interview published online late Saturday illuminated the murky negotiations and hasty efforts made in the early stages of the war to terminate it quickly.
Bennett claims he questioned Putin during the five-hour conversation, which also covered a wide range of other topics, whether he had any plans to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“I inquired, ‘What’s going on here? Do you intend to murder Zelenskyy? I told him, “I have to understand that you’re giving me your word that you won’t kill Zelenskyy,” to which he replied, “I’m not going to kill Zelenskyy.”
Bennett claimed that after then, he called Zelenskyy to tell him of Putin’s promise.
He says, “Listen, I just left a meeting; he won’t kill you. Are you sure?
I assured her, “He won’t kill you at all.”
According to Bennett, Zelenskyy and Putin promised to seek Ukraine’s disarmament during Bennett’s mediation.
When the war started, Bennett, a mostly inexperienced leader who had been prime minister for just over six months, unexpectedly jumped into world diplomacy after placing Israel in an awkward middle ground between Russia and Ukraine.
In light of Iran’s threats, Israel sees its strong connections with the Kremlin as strategically important. However, it also stands with Western countries and tries to defend Ukraine.
He was a devout Jew who was little known outside.
He violated his religious obligations by traveling to Moscow to meet with Putin on the Jewish Sabbath, putting himself at the head of international efforts to end the war.
His tenure in power was brief, and it appeared that his efforts to bring about peace were in vain. Infighting caused Bennett’s cabinet, an ideologically varied coalition that briefly exiled current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to fall apart in the summer.
Bennett left politics and is currently a private person.