Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized to Israeli Prime Minister Bennett today over a call for Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s anti-semitic remarks earlier. Bennett reportedly thanked Putin, during the phone call, for the president’s attitude toward the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust. Bennett said he accepted the apology and thanked Putin for clarifying his position. This came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s top diplomat, on Sunday sought to justify Moscow’s goal of “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, a country which is led by a Jewish president, by claiming Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood” and that “the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.”.
Following this Russia’s ambassador to Israel was summoned quickly to Israel’s foreign ministry for talks. Bennett called the assertions “lies” and Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Lapid described them as “unforgivable and outrageous,” warning that Israel had “tried to maintain good relations with Russia, but there is a line, and this time the line has been crossed… Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust… The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism.” That in turn led to Russia accusing Israel of supporting “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv” earlier on Tuesday, along with a thousand-word statement from the Russian foreign ministry which used examples of forced Jewish collaboration with the Nazis and contemporary instances of anti-Semitism in Ukraine to defend Putin’s claim to have invaded Ukraine in order to de-nazify the country. However following Putin’s apology today to Bennett it seems Russia is backing down and conceding on this point.
On the phone call they held together, Bennett also said he asked Putin to consider allowing the evacuation of the besieged Azovstal steel works in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, they reportedly discusses Ukrainian issues. Putin congratulated Bennett on the occasion of Israel’s 74th Independence Day, according to a statement by the Kremlin. Adding that the two expressed mutual interest in the further development of friendly relations between Russia and Israel and the maintenance of useful contacts between the leadership of the two countries.
“The President of Russia recalled that of the 6 million Jews tortured in ghettos and concentration camps, killed by the Nazis during punitive operations, 40% were citizens of the USSR, and asked to convey wishes of health and well-being to the veterans living in Israel. Naftali Bennett, in turn, noted the decisive contribution of the Red Army to the victory over Nazism,” said the Kremlin. Putin and Bennett noted the “special significance” of May 9th, when Russia and Israel commemorate the victory of Europe and Russia against Nazi Germany, during the call on Thursday. The readout by the Kremlin did not mention the apology.
For a historical tidbit, the assertions around Hitler’s ancestry have seen decades of being unproven. They stem from claims that Hitler’s unidentified paternal grandfather was Jewish, fuelled by an assertion by Hitler’s lawyer Hans Frank. In his memoir, published in 1953, Frank said he had been instructed by Hitler to investigate rumours that he had Jewish ancestry. He said uncovered evidence that Hitler’s grandfather was indeed Jewish. However the claim, which has gained ground among conspiracy theorists, has been treated with scepticism by mainstream historians as no evidence has surfaced beyond Frank’s own writings.