Over the past several days, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been flying from capital to capital in an attempt to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. He has been making long phone calls with leaders from around the world, and seems to have positioned Israel in unfamiliar territory—the middleman. Israel, the country that is usually the target of criticism and condemnation, and which often uses middlemen to communicate with its enemies, has found itself on the conciliator seat. Unfortunately, even if Bennett succeeds, Israel’s position in the world will not improve since the world does not need us as mediators, but to make peace among ourselves and be a model of internal unity.
Israel has always been a special nation among the nations. Since its inception, its place in the world has been unclear. People did not understand the role or the purpose of the Israeli nation, but they felt that there was a reason for our existence.
As it was in the past, so it is today: The world does not welcome us among them. Nevertheless, both Russia and Ukraine seem to have accepted Bennett’s mediation and at least on the surface, they seem to play ball. For its part, the rest of the world, too, seems quite comfortable with Israel’s unusual position, as the Israeli PM reports to the US, France, and Germany about his efforts and receives their blessings.
However, for all his efforts, Bennett will not make peace between the adversaries. Perhaps he will be able to negotiate an armistice, in the best case scenario, but not peace. To achieve peace, we first need to know what it means.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “peace” as “a state of tranquility or quiet: such as freedom from civil disturbance” or “a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom.” In other words, “peace” means absence of violence or active war. In that sense, if Russia and Ukraine stopped fighting tomorrow, there would be peace between them. But would we be able to rely on such “peace”? Would we even expect it to last? Probably not, and for a good reason: it wouldn’t.
The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, from the words shlemut (wholeness) or hashlama (complementarity). Peace, therefore, requires the existence of two opposing and conflicting parties that possess what the other party does not possess, and decide to unite and complement each other’s deficiencies. In this way, the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts because when they are at peace, and complement one another, they both have all the qualities, including the ones that they did not have before they united with their former adversary.
Our sages wrote about it in many places. The book Likutei Etzot (Assorted Counsels), for example, defines “peace” in the following way: “The essence of peace is to connect two opposites. Hence, do not be alarmed if you see a person whose opinion is completely opposite from yours, and you think that you will never be able to make peace with him. Or, when you see two people who are completely opposite to each other, do not say that it is impossible to make peace between them. On the contrary, the essence of peace is to try to make peace between two opposites.”
The Israeli nation was formed when people of numerous tribes and clans united in the spirit of the above motto of mutual complementarity, and engendered a new nation made of all the nations in the ancient world. In a sense, they demonstrated the method by which humanity can achieve world peace.
Because the Jewish people consists of members of all the nations, all the nations feel they have a stake in the Jewish people. And because of our unique role, to demonstrate the method for achieving strong and lasting peace, they feel entitled to criticize us when they feel that we are betraying our calling.
When we make peace within us, we indirectly make peace among all the nations of the world, precisely because we contain them within us and they are our origin. Therefore, if we want to end wars once and for all, we need to carry out the one and only task that the Jewish people has ever been given: to be a model of unity, a light unto nations, and the world will support us in our efforts.
A combo photo of (L-R) Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Naftali Bennett secretly traveled to Moscow on Saturday March 5, 2022 for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the war in Ukraine. The meeting at the Kremlin lasted for 3 hours, according to Israeli press reports. An Israeli official diplomatic source said the meeting was coordinated with the United States, Germany, and France, in continuous dialogue with Ukraine. Following the meeting with Putin, the Prime Minister’s Office said Bennet spoke with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. It did not specify what the two discussed