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March 8, 2022 6:20 pm

Sharansky: Doubtful If Israel Can Play Role in Ending Russia’s War in Ukraine

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Natan Sharansky. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Ukrainian-born Israeli human rights activist Natan Sharansky raised doubts about whether Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett can play a meaningful role in ending Russia’s assault on Ukraine, as the Israeli leader on Tuesday again spoke with his counterparts from both countries.

“I hope and pray that my prime minister [Naftali Bennett] knows something that I don’t know, and he can play a real role — even if it is a small role — in making [a] ceasefire and saving people. Of course, it can be done when there are so few people who talk to both sides. If we can be constructive and helpful, I am fully for it,” said Sharansky, speaking at an online briefing organized by the Washington, DC-based Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

However, Sharansky argued, Russian President Vladimir Putin is convinced in his drive to bring Ukraine back under Russia’s full control, or destroy it in the process.

“So I don’t think that Israel can bring any arguments to distract him,” said Sharansky, who is chair of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy. “Only a real threat of destruction, whether through weapons or through economic sedation, can really make him think twice.”

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Bennett vowed this week to continue mediation attempts aimed at ending the war between Russia and Ukraine, despite admittedly slim odds of success. The Israeli leader met with Putin over the weekend and on Tuesday held the latest in a number of back-to-back conversations with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Russian president.

Sharansky — who was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and spent years as a prisoner of conscience in the Soviet Union — remarked that the invasion of Ukraine presented Putin with two surprises.

“One big surprise for him was Ukrainian resistance. Putin believed that Ukrainians are not a real nation; he convinced himself that Ukraine is not a real country,” he said.

Although Putin knew that the west would not bring military force to bear against Russia, he didn’t expect such unity by world powers, according to Sharansky.

“We have always known that capitalists will never be united when it comes to their problems. As Lenin once said, ‘the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” Sharansky said. “So, the fact that the capitalists of the world can unite against [Putin] with sanctions, I believe surprised him. But whether he has second thoughts, I don’t know.”

“What he definitely knows is that he doesn’t have all the time in the world to conquer Ukraine, and that he has to act quickly,” Sharansky added. “But I think he believes that his readiness to use the threat of nuclear weapons is still his main deterrence, which will help.”

After talking to friends in Russia, Sharansky spoke of an immediate impact on daily life there, noting that the value of people’s savings has almost halved in a period of two weeks.

“In the last few days, I have been told by my friends that one after another, all the foreign shops are closing down in the central streets of Moscow,” Sharansky said. “Suddenly, people feel themselves in the wrong place.”

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