The Real Story behind Naftali Bennett’s Trip to Moscow

On March 5, the Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett traveled to Russia, where he had a several-hours-long meeting with Vladimir Putin. That the trip took place on Shabbat—Bennett is an Orthodox Jews—stressed its significance. Some criticized Jerusalem for making an apparent overture to the Kremlin just two weeks after it launched its massive military offensive into Ukraine, but it later became clear that Volodymyr Zelensky had himself requested Israeli mediation. Based on a series of interviews, Moav Vardi explains the strategic logic behind this carefully planned diplomatic initiative:

Any negotiation between Russia and Ukraine is, in essence, a negotiation between Russia and the United States. . . . Major Western leaders like France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who met with Putin at the Kremlin in the days before the war, were not seen by Russia as potential mediators, but as parties adverse in interests.

Before [Bennett embarked] on this mission, it was imperative that key Western leaders bless [the] initiative. And they did. His meeting with Putin was coordinated with the U.S., France, and Germany before he even took off for Moscow.

At the time that Bennett intervened, the Russians and Ukrainians had already been at the negotiating table in Belarus for five days. But there was a hitch. Those negotiations were revealed to be a bit of a charade. The Russian representatives feared Putin and were unwilling to suggest anything that diverged from Moscow’s official line. To do so meant risking being accused by “the state” of weakness and endangering Russian interests.

For the same reasons, Putin’s emissaries did not transmit Ukrainian positions to their boss, fearing his reaction upon hearing them. The only way to have a real exchange of views was through a direct conversation between a Western leader and Putin. Enter Naftali Bennett.

Read more at State of Tel Aviv

More about: Israel diplomacy, Naftali Bennett, U.S. Foreign policy, War in Ukraine


How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion