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Israeli PM offers rare, uncertain diplomatic channel for Putin, Zelenskyy

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's delegation found Russian President Vladimir Putin focused and determined, and neither delusional nor out of control.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Just over 24 hours after the dramatic Moscow meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a weapons depot was bombed south of Damascus. The strike, attributed to the Israeli air force, was the first of its kind since Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago. It is unclear whether the raid in the pre-dawn hours of March 7 was directly linked to the March 5 Moscow meeting, but events in this region tend to be intertwined. As of now, Israel's mediation moves, with Bennett a would-be Henry Kissinger, have not yielded tangible results, but they have placed Israel’s relatively inexperienced and politically challenged prime minister in the big leagues.

The trip to Moscow was a clandestine operation. Joining Bennett was Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin, who served as an interpreter, just as he did for former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at all his meetings with Putin since 2009. Ukraine-born Elkin was a Soviet dissident on the KGB’s radar who moved to Israel with the union's collapse. Elkin is one of Israel and the West's politicians most familiar with Putin after logging many hours, both formal and informal, with him and studying him up close.

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