On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Moscow and Berlin in an intensive effort to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow before flying to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Though no details about the meetings were released to the media, Bennett was considered as a possible mediator as Israel maintains relations with both Ukraine and Russia.Israel has remained cautiously non-committal as it is a close ally of the US but also has a significant Russian presence to the north in Syria.
Hebrew-language media reported that Bennett also spoke with Putin about the safety of Ukraine’s Jewish communities. Reports also stated the meeting with Putin dealt with the nuclear talks with Iran. Russia is mediating the talks between the Biden administration and Iran aimed at jumpstarting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that would culminate in greenlighting the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
After meeting with Putin, Bennett spoke at least twice with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the telephone.
Prime Minister of Israel @naftalibennett called me after his meeting with Vladimir Putin. We continue dialogue.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 5, 2022
Bennett also consulted with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The PM was accompanied by Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, acting as a translator and adviser. Elkin is a Russian speaker and native of Ukraine. In the past, Zelensky has requested that Bennett act as a mediator.
Bennett’s mission may seem surprising as he is a religiously observant Jew and Jewish law generally prohibits traveling on Shabbat. This prohibition does not include travel that is necessary for the preservation of life. This was explained in a Facebook post by Rabbi Chaim Navon who teaches Gemara and Jewish thought in Herzog College at Yeshivat Har Etzion and at Midreshet Lindenbaum.
“I have no idea what Bennett was doing in Russia,” Rabbi Navon wrote. “If he mediates between Russia and Ukraine – I wish he will succeed, although it is hard to believe.”
“And regarding the question of breaking the Sabbath: Instead of involving such important strategic and security interests of the state of Israel – mainly regarding the activities of the IDF in Syria – it seems clear to me that the Prime Minister of Israel should act on Shabbat as well.”
Rabbi Navon then cited a well-known principle that is behind theTorah mandate that requires violating the Shabbat in order to save a life:
It is hoped that by violating one Shabbat, many more Sabbaths, we will be able to keep many morenSabbaths.
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