Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett embarked on an unprecedented diplomacy tour Saturday, flying to Moscow and then Berlin, and calling Ukrainian President Zelensky three times over the weekend. The substance of his three-hour long meeting with Putin is largely unknown, but one topic was "the number of Jews that are in Ukraine," whom Israel wants to get out of the country safely, CBN Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell reported. It's likely he tried to "mediate what's going on right now in Ukraine and try to bring some end to the hostilities," too. "Israel is in a unique situation," Mitchell explained, "having relationships with Russia and, of course, relationships with the West.
Bennett's whirlwind weekend reflects his dire view of world affairs. As an Orthodox Jew, he typically doesn't travel on the Sabbath, but he may travel if lives are at stake. For Bennett to become "the first [prime minister] in Israel's history to actually [travel] on the Sabbath," Mitchell explained, he must think that lives depend on his diplomatic efforts. Indeed, Israel is one of the few countries positioned to mediate the conflict. As NATO and other Western allies enact economic sanctions, there are few countries left who have good relations with both Russia and the West; one of them is Israel.
Israel has concerns of its own. Mitchell said Bennett also talked with Putin about the ongoing negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. All this time, while Russia has invaded Ukraine and America has enacted sanctions, Russian, American, and Iranian diplomates are negotiating in Vienna to reestablish the Obama administration's 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) from which the Trump administration withdrew.
From Israel's perspective, the deal is a disaster. "The sunset clauses will remain," Mitchell said, which means after nine years, "Iran will have free reign" to build nukes. Under the deal, Iranians retain the "ability to keep their enriched uranium, ability to keep their advanced centrifuges," he continued. Worst of all (at least for American interests), the deal provides "sanctions relief on some of Iran's top officials," including those actively involved in plotting terrorism against the United States. Israel is equally concerned that the deal will make Iran a "nuclear threshold country," one which could develop a nuclear weapon in "a matter of weeks or months... maybe as much as a year."
American negotiators are more optimistic. "Should these negotiations succeed, such a return would be a significant achievement of international diplomacy and mark a new era in our approach to Iran's nuclear programme," the U.S. told the International Atomic Energy Agency, adding there is "very little time remaining" in which to achieve it (before what? before Iran finishes building a nuclear weapon? before the U.S. gets drawn into war over Ukraine?). Fortunately, Russia halted the nearly finalized agreement by demanding "a written guarantee from the U.S." that U.S. sanctions (on Russia) would not "interrupt trade between Russia and Iran."
At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, this tangled, international web doesn't make any sense! And you'd be right. America and NATO support Ukraine's war of self-preservation against Russia. Meanwhile, America is negotiating alongside Russia with another enemy, Iran. Iran's stated goal is to obliterate Israel, and we hope to dissuade them from that by giving them everything they want. Meanwhile, Israel, a friend to both us and Russia, doesn't have a seat at that table (some friends we are), but has offered to mediate negotiations over Ukraine. In just over a year, President Biden has bogged down American foreign policy like Russian tanks in a Ukrainian swamp. Somewhere, Xi Jinping is chuckling to himself.