WORLD WATCH - Bennett’s journey to Moscow was bound to fail from the onset; but for Bennett, who thought the trip would provide him an opportunity to show statesmanship, instead it sadly revealed his shortsightedness and self-indulgence.
Righting the Wrong
It has now become clear that Prime Minister Bennett’s trip to Moscow failed to produce a negotiated settlement to end the horrifying war against the Ukraine. The question is why Bennett continues to refuse to condemn the Russian invasion and provide, at a minimum, defensive weapons to the Ukrainian military to defend itself. The answer is extremely disturbing and warrants an outright condemnation.
What is sad is Bennett’s complete lack of understanding and awareness of what Israel’s role should always be—a beacon of what’s right and moral. Bennett has woefully forgotten that Israel’s creation was largely due to the moral obligations of the West for the Jews to have a home of their own following the Holocaust, during which six million Jews perished. It is that moral foundation that held Israel together, it is the basis and reason for Israel’s being – the flames of what is right and just and the banner of morals that every Jew should be holding high.
It appears though that Bennett bit off more than he can chew, but then that was not surprising. After all Bennett has been in office as prime minister less than a year, he lacks experience in international diplomacy and conflict resolution, and he obviously grossly underestimated Putin’s decades of diplomatic experience and notoriety as an unrivaled nefarious schemer that can run circles around a novice like him, which Putin did. Putin agreed to meet with Bennett because he could use him to demonstrate that he is not unreasonable and is open to listen and negotiate, even though controlling all of Ukraine and installing a puppet government remains most likely his immovable goal.
For starters, the trip to Moscow was a journey into the lion’s den with a vicious but clever beast that knows he can toy with this inexperienced, self-conceited opportunist who landed in the prime minister’s office not because of merit, but through political maneuvering and masterfully exploiting Israel’s political division and personal rivalries. But instead, Bennett used this as an ego trip. He wanted to be seen on the global stage as a peacemaker, regardless of the fact that he was meeting the worst of all evils, and the prospect of achieving anything that could save the life even of one Ukrainian child was nil, which still puzzles Zelensky, albeit he extended his appreciation for Bennett’s efforts.
The second sinister reason that prompted him to fly to Moscow—on the Sabbath, no less—was to further impede the prospect of reaching a new nuclear deal with Iran, which he opposes. Due to the invasion of Ukraine and the crippling sanctions that followed, Putin made it clear that he would not support any new nuclear deal unless all sanctions are lifted. For Bennett, this was a golden opportunity he could not miss.
In defiance of the US, which is bar-none the most supportive country of Israel and guarantor of its security, Bennett elected to side with Putin to scuttle the Iran deal. Bennett’s position on this particular issue enraged the Biden administration, which has already been extremely disappointed with Israel for refusing to openly condemn the Russian invasion of an independent, democratic, and peaceful country.
The third reason behind Bennett’s ill-fated journey was to placate Putin so that he will continue to allow Israel’s air force to bombard Iranian military installations in Syria and attack Tehran’s shipments of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. What Bennett failed to grasp is that Putin does not want Iran to be fully entrenched in Syria, and if Israel does not bombard Iranian targets, the Russians will have to take whatever measures necessary to reduce Iran’s influence in the country. Thus, as long as Israel and Russia have a mutual interest in limiting Tehran’s sway in Syria, Putin is perfectly happy to allow Israel to do his dirty work. This would spare him the money and effort, while he can deny any involvement with Israel’s military campaign against Iran in Syria while maintaining cordial relations with Tehran.
The futility of Bennett’s journey became amply clear within hours after his departure from Moscow. Putin instructed his military commanders to shell civilian communities, killing hundreds and inflicting massive structural destruction akin to the brutality and ruthlessness of Hitler’s unprecedented and conscionable war crimes committed against millions of innocent people. Indeed, Putin continues to commit unconscionable war crimes by indiscriminately and even purposely target civilians, such the bombing of a children’s and maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol which killed three people, including a child, and injured 17.
Sadly, Bennett and his government remain unfazed. Bennett still maintains that preserving a neutral position can serve the cause of peace, which is nothing but a bunch of rubbish because what mattered to him is what ‘presumably’ serves Israel’s interests. This is where Bennett is tragically wrong.
What serves Israel’s best national interest is to live up the promise that gave it rise as an independent Jewish democratic state—a state that was built on the ashes of Zelensky’s great-grandfather and three great uncles who perished in the Holocaust. On their ashes and the ashes of millions other Jews, Israel was established. Bennett has betrayed their sacrifice, their valor, their heroism, and their memory.
All Israelis with conscience should pour into the streets and demand that the government immediately follow the Europeans’ and the US’ lead by providing, other than basic humanitarian assistance, both defensive and offensive weapons. This should especially include UAVs and the Iron Dome air defense system to the Ukrainian army and light weapons to the citizens who are fighting with bare hands and dying as proud people. They stood tall and undeterred in the face of overwhelming odds, knowing that they would rather die than live under shackles of tyranny.
Finally, I want to remind you Mr. Bennett directly—leaders, events, victories, losses, and even wars, though they leave traces behind, good and bad, are all transient. What is not transient and remains etched in memories are selfless acts that put moral obligations above anything and everything else.
You might think that you are protecting Israel’s national security by opposing the Iran deal and by placating Putin in Syria. But what serves Israel best is a moral triumph—a triumph over the worst of evils. Remember, the moment Israel fails to raise that moral rod and come to the rescue of those who are in dire need and crying for help, who are being slaughtered, displaced, and shattered, Israel forfeits its moral foundation, which is fundamental to its very existence.
You put Israel to shame—something that will be engraved in the minds of millions and what history will recall. That will be your lasting legacy, Mr. Bennett.
(Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.)