Israeli PM says Putin is sorry after minister's 'Jewish blood' comment

Putin says sorry for his foreign minister Lavrov claiming Hitler had Jewish blood: Russian president apologises in phone call to Israeli PM

  • Russia’s Sergey Lavrov made offensive comments about the Holocaust 
  • ‘In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins,’ he said in an interview
  • Israeli PM Naftali Bennett and Vladimir Putin have spoken over the telephone
  • A subsequent Israeli statement said the Russian President had apologised
  • But Russian statement made no mention of an apology, instead saying they had emphasised the importance of marking the Nazi defeat in World War II

Israel’s Prime Minister says he has accepted an apology from Vladimir Putin today after the Russian foreign minister said Adolf Hitler had ‘Jewish blood’. 

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett had emerged as a potential mediator between Russia and Ukraine shortly after Moscow’s invasion.

But that role was thrown into doubt this week when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made comments about the Holocaust that were deeply offensive to Jews.

Asked in an interview with an Italian news channel about Russian claims that it invaded Ukraine to ‘denazify’ the country, Lavrov said that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even though its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.

‘In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything.

‘For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish,’ he said, speaking to the station in Russian, dubbed over by an Italian translation.

Bennett and Putin spoke over the telephone and a subsequent Israeli statement said the Russian President had apologised.

But the Russian statement about the call made no mention of an apology, instead saying they had emphasised the importance of marking the Nazi defeat in World War II, which Russia celebrates on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who has harshly criticized Russia over the invasion, called Lavrov’s statement ‘unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.’

‘The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,’ said Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor. ‘The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism.’

He demanded that Russia apologize, and Israel summoned the Russian ambassador in protest.

Bennett, who has been more measured in his criticism of Russia’s invasion, also condemned Lavrov’s comments. 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 towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust,’ Bennett’s office said in a statement.

Evoking Russia’s deeply-rooted narrative of suffering and heroism in World War II, Putin has portrayed the war in Ukraine as a struggle against Nazis, even though it has a democratically elected government and a Jewish president whose relatives were killed in the Holocaust.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a speech during the annual Yom Hazikaron Remembrance Day ceremony for fallen Israeli soldiers, in the Yad LaBanim Memorial in Jerusalem May 3,

Israel gained independence in the wake of the Holocaust and has served as a refuge for the world’s Jews. 

The Holocaust and its remembrance remain central to Israel’s national identity, and the country marked its annual Holocaust memorial day last week. 

The Nazis and their collaborators killed 6 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 routinely strikes suspected Iranian military targets. Israel and Moscow coordinate their actions in Syria to avoid coming into conflict.

That paved the way for Bennett to be able to try to mediate between the sides in Ukraine, a role he seems to have resumed this week.

Bennett’s office said he and Putin discussed plans to evacuate civilians from a besieged steel plant in the port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine. 

That came after a call between Bennett and Zelenskyy on Wednesday.

The statement from Bennett said Putin ‘promised to allow the evacuation of civilians, including wounded civilians, through a U.N. and Red Cross humanitarian corridor.’

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