A Ukrainian official told Axios on Friday that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to accept a proposal from Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the fighting in Ukraine.
An official from Bennett’s office denied the claim and insisted the Israeli leader didn’t make any recommendations. Bennett has been acting as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine and flew to Moscow to meet with Putin on March 5.
After the Bennett-Putin meeting, Israeli officials said that Putin had put forward a proposal that is difficult for Zelensky to accept but isn’t as extreme as they expected. According to the Israelis, the proposal doesn’t include regime change and allows Ukraine to maintain its sovereignty.
The Ukrainian official said Bennett recommended that Zelensky accept Putin’s offer during a phone call on Tuesday. “Bennett is basically telling us to surrender and we have no intention of doing that,” the official said.
Other Ukrainian officials have been critical of Israel for taking a seemingly neutral position on the war and not sending weapons to Ukraine. The Ukrainian official said Bennett’s diplomacy initiative “looks like an excuse for why he is not speaking out against Russia, not providing weapons to Ukraine and not sanctioning Russia.”
Separately, Ukraine’s ambassador in Israel accused the Israelis of being “afraid” of Russia because it has “a few airplanes and anti-missile systems in Syria.”
Besides Bennett, other world leaders have engaged with Putin, but there’s been no sign that President Biden plans to engage with the Russian leader. Instead of trying diplomacy, the US is ramping up sanctions on Russia and working with NATO allies to flood weapons into Ukraine.