In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on February 2, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he was asked to mediate between Russia and Ukraine in the early days of the invasion.
When questioned about who asked Netanyahu to mediate, the Prime Minister was less candid. “It was unofficial, so I didn’t even pursue it… But if asked by all relevant parties, I’ll certainly consider it, but I’m not pushing myself in,” he told Tapper.
Netanyahu clarified that he’s been around long enough to know that the right time and circumstances must align for him to consider mediation. Specifically, he named the United States as a country that would need to be on board with the mediation process.
Re-elected in December 2022, the Prime Minister also talked about his relationship with President Biden. Having known each other for 40 years, they consider themselves close friends that rarely agree. “We speak openly to one another. I think President Biden’s commitment to Israel is real. It’s not just words… and my commitment to the United States is real, and has gone through many presidents,” said Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s name has been circulating because an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy floated his name as someone that might be an ideal mediator between Zelenskyy and Putin. At the time, Netanyahu’s predecessor Neftali Bennett was the Prime Minister of Israel. Bennett talked to Putin in person in Moscow and with Zelenskyy on the phone, but his efforts didn’t succeed.
Netanyahu admitted that Israel has enough to deal with in their own backyard, but that the mediation between Ukraine and Russia is of “monumental importance.” However, his other major concern with the peace of the world has to do with Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, which he says will destabilize the world.
Since the Russian military invasion began, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Netanyahu have expressed support for Ukraine. Thus far, Israel has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine but has yet to commit to supplying Kyiv with defensive weapons systems.
February 24 marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. Whether Netanyahu is called upon to mediate the two countries is yet to be determined. With reports that Israel has refused requests from the U.S. to hand over interceptor missiles to Ukraine, Netanyahu could be in a position to bring about an agreement between the two nations.