Netanyahu delayed meeting Putin to bolster political alliances

The Israeli and Russian leaders were to have met Thursday, but it was also the deadline for submitting party lists for the April Knesset election.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Thursday and discussed regional developments, said the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, adding that the two leaders agreed to meet again soon.

Netanyahu and Putin were to have met Thursday in Russia, but an announcement was made just one day ahead of time that the summit was being postponed.

The encounter would have been the first official meeting since a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses in September, an incident for which Moscow said that Israel was ultimately to blame.

Word of the phone conversation which took place with Putin sent a message that Netanyahu is still handling the crucial security issues facing Israel, but the political deadline facing the prime minister ultimately forced him to stay home. Thursday was the final day for submitting party lists for the April 9th parliamentary election in Israel.

The prime minister’s concern has centered around public opinion polls which continue to show that the parties comprising the current government coalition would not garner a Knesset majority in the upcoming ballot. He pressured smaller right-wing parties into joining forces to avoid a split that would waste votes in favor of the center-left.

On Wednesday night, Jewish Home – flirting with parliamentary extinction, according to the polls – agreed to a joint list with the further-right Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Strength”) party.

However, early Thursday morning, leading names on the center-left also agreed to a unified list.

According to a public opinion poll released Wednesday before the latest merger developments, the current government coalition parties receiving a combined 59 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

The largest party, according to the Panels Politics/Walla poll, remained Netanyahu’s Likud with 31 seats. Israel Resilience and Yesh Atid were polled separately, before the announcement of a joint list, gaining 19 and 13 seats respectively, which would mean edging out the Likud by one seat running together, though pundits say that future polls will better assess the impact of the decision by those two parties to compete together.

In the meantime, the prime minister was continuing to receive calls from others on the right to unite the Likud with smaller parties of a similar ideology to further help his own cause.