JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday his government was proceeding “with moderation and responsibility” on a conflict testing its ties to Kyiv and Moscow.
Speaking on television after a weekly cabinet meeting, Bennett made no mention of Ukrainian appeals on Israel to mediate in the crisis with Russia.
While Israel’s foreign minister has censured the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bennett has stopped short of such remarks. Israel is wary of clashing with Russia, especially over next-door Syria, where Moscow has military sway.
“We pray for the wellbeing of the citizens of Ukraine and hope that further bloodshed is prevented,” Bennett said. “We are conducting ourselves with moderation and responsibility”.
He said Israel is sending 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including water-purification kits, medical equipment and tents. It will arrive within days.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a Bennett confidante, on Saturday told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that the mediation request by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was “being attended to” but would not be drawn on the matter further.
The Russian embassy declined comment.
Israel was in touch with all sides of the conflict, senior Foreign Ministry official Gary Koren told radio station Kan.
Asked if the relatively low-key condemnation of Russia was aimed at keeping open an option of Israel serving as intermediary, he answered in the affirmative, saying: “Exactly as you described it.”
Israel is home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. It is also mindful of the well-being of the two countries’ large Jewish communities.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Angus MacSwan)