Bennett says Israel will try to mediate in Ukraine

Israeli Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting on February 27, 2022 at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Via Abir Sultan / Pool REUTERS

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JERUSALEM, March 6 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett said on Sunday that Israel would continue to try to mediate between Russia and Ukraine after returning from surprise talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine has called on Israel to act as a mediator, citing the Bennett government’s good relations with both Kiev and Moscow. Bennett’s office He spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky three times over the weekend.

In televised comments to his cabinet, Bennett did not give any details about his three-hour Kremlin meeting with Putin on Saturday, saying it was “a blessing and encouragement from all sides” – a reference to the United States among other powers. Bennett and Putin discussed the idea of ​​mediation over the phone last week.

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“Even if the opportunities are not great, we will continue to help wherever it is requested,” Bennett said. “Even when there is a small opening, all sides have access and capacity. I see it as a moral obligation to make every effort.”

Israel has condemned the Russian occupation of Ukraine, expressed solidarity with Kiev and sent humanitarian aid. But Bennett has not complied with Ukrainian demands for military assistance and has opened channels for Russia to coordinate operations with Israel against the Iranian invasion of Syria.

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Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said he had rejected Ukrainian demands to ban nine Russian media outlets on the basis of their campaign.

“These (broadcasters) have not met any threshold, which necessitates their ban. I would like to remind you that in a democracy, blocking media channels is a very dramatic event,” Hendell told reporters.

Interior Minister Ailet Sheikh said Israel, with a population of 9.2 million, was preparing for the “biggest wave” of conflict-induced immigration.

He said it could take in more than 200,000 Ukrainians with Jewish or Jewish family affiliations and more than 600,000 Russians in the same category.

The Israeli Airports Authority said it had received instructions not to allow private jets to land for more than 24 hours, according to local media reports in an attempt to prevent Russian oligarchs from fleeing to Israel.

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Edited by Jeffrey Heller and Raisa Kasolovsky by Don Williams

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