Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday he accepted an apology from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the controversial Holocaust remarks made by the Moscow foreign minister.
The two leaders spoke by phone, after which an Israeli statement said Putin had apologized. However, the Russian statement regarding the call made no mention of an apology. Instead, he said he stressed the importance of marking the Nazi defeat in World War II, which Russia celebrates on Monday.
Bennett emerged as a potential mediator between Russia and Ukraine shortly after the invasion of Moscow. But that role was cast in doubt this week when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made comments about the Holocaust deeply offensive to Jews.
Asked in an interview with an Italian news channel about Russian claims that he invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country, Lavrov said Ukraine may still have Nazi elements even though its president, Volodymyr Zelensky , is Jewish.
“In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so that means absolutely nothing. For some time now, we have heard from the Jewish people that the greatest anti-Semites were Jews,” he said, addressing at the station in Russian, dubbed topped with an Italian translation.
“Unforgivable and scandalous” claim
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who has harshly criticized Russia over the invasion, called Lavrov’s statement “unforgivable and outrageous and a horrific historical mistake”.
“Jews didn’t kill themselves in the Holocaust,” said Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is blaming Jews themselves for anti-Semitism.”
He demanded that Russia apologize and Israel summoned the Russian ambassador in protest.
Bennett, who was more measured in his criticism of the Russian invasion, also condemned Lavrov’s remarks. On Thursday, he said Putin had apologized.
“The prime minister accepted President Putin’s apology for Lavrov’s remarks and thanked him for clarifying the president’s attitude toward the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust,” Bennett’s office said in a statement. a statement.
Russia’s War Story
Evoking the deeply ingrained narrative of Russia’s suffering and heroism during World War II, Putin described the war in Ukraine as a fight against the Nazis, even though it has a democratically elected government and a Jewish president whose loved ones were killed in the Holocaust.
Israel gained independence following the Holocaust and served as a haven for the Jews of the world. The Holocaust and its remembrance remain central to Israel’s national identity, and the country celebrated its annual Holocaust Memorial Day last week. The Nazis and their collaborators killed six million Jews during World War II.
Israel has tried to maintain ties with Russia despite the war, in part because Russia has a large military presence in neighboring Syria, where Israel regularly strikes suspected Iranian military targets. Israel and Moscow are coordinating their actions in Syria to avoid conflict.
That paved the way for Bennett to try to mediate between the parties in Ukraine, a role he appears to have resumed this week.
Bennett’s office said he and Putin discussed plans to evacuate civilians from a besieged steel mill in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. It came after a call between Bennett and Zelensky on Wednesday.
Bennett’s statement said Putin “promised to allow the evacuation of civilians, including injured civilians, through a UN/Red Cross humanitarian corridor.”