Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview posted to his YouTube channel on Saturday that the US and its Western allies “blocked” his efforts of mediating between Russia and Ukraine to bring an end to the war in its early days.
On March 5, 2022, Bennett traveled to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. In the interview, he detailed his mediation at the time between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which he said he coordinated with the US, France, Germany, and the UK.
Bennett said that both sides agreed to major concessions during his mediation effort. For the Russian side, he said they dropped “denazification” as a requirement for a ceasefire. Bennett defined “denazification” as the removal of Zelensky. During his meeting in Moscow with Putin, Bennett said the Russian leader guaranteed that he wouldn’t try to kill Zelensky.
The other concession Russia made, according to Bennett, is that it wouldn’t seek the disarmament of Ukraine. For the Ukrainian side, Zelensky “renounced” that he would seek NATO membership, which Bennett said was the “reason” for Russia’s invasion.
Reports at the time reflect Bennet’s comments and said Russia and Ukraine were softening their positions. Citing Israeli officials, Axios reported on March 8 that Putin’s “proposal is difficult for Zelensky to accept but not as extreme as they anticipated. They said the proposal doesn’t include regime change in Kyiv and allows Ukraine to keep its sovereignty.”
Discussing how Western leaders felt about his mediation efforts, Bennett said then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took an “aggressive line” while French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were more “pragmatic.” Bennett said President Biden adopted “both” positions.
But ultimately, the Western leaders opposed Bennet’s efforts. “I’ll say this in the broad sense. I think there was a legitimate decision by the West to keep striking Putin and not [negotiate],” Bennett said.
When asked if the Western powers “blocked” the mediation efforts, Bennet said, “Basically, yes. They blocked it, and I thought they were wrong.”…