Bennett cozies up to Putin over Shabbat with help of Soviet-born MK

There was a “very special atmosphere in the room” and “good chemistry” between Bennett and Putin, Ze’ev Elkin said.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s communication with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state trip to Russia over the weekend was facilitated in large part by his coalition partner, Ze’ev Elkin of the New Hope party, who was born in the former Soviet Union.

Elkin, who immigrated to Israel from what is now Ukraine in 1990, serves in the dual roles of Housing and Construction Minister and Jerusalem Affairs Minister in the current government.

He accompanied Bennett to Sochi for a critical meeting with Putin, in which the Israeli premier encouraged Russia to support the Jewish State’s security interests regarding Syria.

“Because of coronavirus restrictions, none of the members of the [Israeli] delegation were allowed to enter the room except for me,” Elkin told Army Radio on Sunday morning.

He said that he’d served as a translator between Bennett and Putin, explaining “aerial photographs [of Syria] that were important for security, that we wanted to discuss with the Russian president.”

There was a “very special atmosphere in the room” and “good chemistry” between Bennett and Putin, Elkin recalled, adding that what was originally slated to be a two hour meeting stretched into a five hour visit.

Putin took Bennett on a tour of the presidential palace, which Elkin said was an unprecedented act of hospitality on the part of the Russian leader.

“The fact that it happened in the first meeting [between the two men] is special,” he said.

As the U.S. pressures the Jewish State to walk back its ties with China, and progressive members of Congress offer up vocal criticism of Israel, the government appears to be solidifying ties with other allies like India and Russia.

The meeting may mark a departure from previous Russian policy on Israeli action in Syria.

In July, Russia’s Defense Ministry issued rare public statements celebrating the success of Syria’s air defense system against missiles fired by the Israeli Air Force.

According to London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, President Vladimir Putin is “irritated” and has “run out of patience” with Israeli strikes on Iranian-backed intelligence gathering and operational bases in Syria.

Because the meeting with Putin ran longer than expected, Bennett ended up spending the weekend with Sochi’s Jewish community.

He was hosted for a Shabbat meal by the local Chabad emissary, Rabbi Shalom Lazar.