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Tags: naftali bennett | putin | zelenskyy | sabbath

Will Israeli PM's Meeting With Putin Save Lives?

putin points as he talks to bennett
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladamir Putin at a previous meeting. (Sputnik via AP)

Micah Halpern By Friday, 11 March 2022 01:32 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

On a Saturday, in the midst of the war being waged in Ukraine, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had a sit down, a face-to-facet three-hour meeting, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bennett was granted the meeting because, it is said, Israel — the Jewish State, has the trust of both Russia and of Ukraine.

Bennett is an orthodox Jew. This meeting was so important that Naftali Bennett broke the holy Sabbath to meet with the man ravaging a neighboring country and killing its citizens.

According to Jewish law, breaking the Sabbath is a significant violation. In fact, the Torah excoriates those who break the sanctity of the Sabbath. On numerous occasions the Torah proclaims that the punishment meted out to a Jew who violates the Sabbath violation is death.

The Sabbath begins one hour before sundown on Friday and concludes twenty-five hours later, when three stars appear in the Saturday night sky. During those twenty-five hours electronics and trains, planes and automobiles are off limits, verboten. It is a time when those of us who are observant realize that we are in control of our machines, that our machines do not control our lives. It is a welcome break.

But there is an exception, an exemption if you please, to that dictum. To save a life, that same Jew is required to break the Sabbath. Required.

Why the exception to the law? The answer is clear. The sanctity of human life is more important than everything else — everything, even a direct command of God. And one should break the Sabbath so that future Sabbaths can be observed.

And so, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a Torah observant Jew, got on his Israeli plane and flew to mediate between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the Sabbath. Everyone on the plane with the prime minister was there to participate in the same effort — they broke the Sabbath, big time broke the Sabbath, to save lives.

Bennett had a mission to accomplish. Mediation was one aspect of his visit to Russia. But there was much more for him to accomplish. His real task was to it evaluate the Russian president in the moment.

The Israeli prime minister was there to uncover Putin’s “real red lines.” And he was there to evaluate Putin’s state of mind and determine his flexibility.

Bennett was to read Putin, the proverbial closed book, and to report back. A daunting mission, indeed.

We know Putin’s demands have been articulated to Zelenskyy. And we know that what Putin wants, what he is demanding, will be very painful for Ukraine, but they will allow for a peaceful settlement to this blood-drenched conflict. And they will allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to retain his position, to remain in power.

The terms that Vladimir Putin has set for Ukraine are probably similar to those he set during his 2014 conflict over Crimea. It is an “all or nothing” settlement. And according to Bennett’s assessment, Putin is dead serious and unmoving in his demands.

The Russian president does not care about the loss of human life, let alone the destruction of property, landmarks, humanitarian facilities. For Putin the numbers are not relevant. If his demands are not met, Putin will continue to pound and pulverize and even destroy Ukraine.

Zelensky has a choice. To accede to Putin’s wish — or to accept the consequences. If Putin’s demands are met:

  • Ukraine will swear off the desire to join NATO.
  • Ukraine will shrink its army.
  • Ukraine will become neutral. It will act like Finland and like Iceland. It will not align with either NATO or the West.

If Ukraine does not accept the demands, the result could be the deaths of thousands more Ukrainians and the end of what we know as Ukraine. It might take a few weeks or it might take a few months.

Ukrainians are fighters, determined to hold strong and defend their country — but are they stronger than a determined Vladimir Putin, a man committed to his plan and unconcerned about the losses to his own legion of soldiers?

Putin doesn’t care. Zelenskyy does care.

Whatever Volodymyr Zelensky decides, he is a hero — a hero to his countrymen and a hero to the free world. He has touched the souls of the men and women of Ukraine and of the world. He has energized his population and they have fought valiantly and bravely, exacting a heavy price on Russia.

So did Bennett violate the Sabbath to save lives — or was it a futile mission?

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.

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On a Saturday, in the midst of the war being waged in Ukraine, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had a sit down, a face-to-facet three-hour meeting, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
naftali bennett, putin, zelenskyy, sabbath
Friday, 11 March 2022 01:32 PM
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