At a meeting in Sochi, the Russian president says the improved ties are “largely thanks” to Netanyahu’s efforts.
By World Israel News Staff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Russian coordination to stop Iran’s entrenchment in Syria when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Thursday, though the subject of the September 17 Israeli parliamentary election was also inserted into the conversation.
Putin said that he hoped that, whichever candidate became prime minister after the election, the “new quality” of Russian-Israeli security ties which are “largely thanks” to Netanyahu’s efforts would be maintained.
The Israeli prime minister had defended the timing of his meeting with Putin, saying that it was taking place as Israel was “operating on a number of fronts basically in an expanse of 360 degrees to ensure Israeli security amid attempts by Iran and its proxies to attack us.”
Referring to the coordination with Russia regarding Syria, Netanyahu said that “it is important to us to preserve the freedom of operation of the IDF and the air force against Iranian targets, Hezbollah targets, other terror targets” in Syria.
However, the close proximity of the summit talks with the Russian leader to the upcoming election on Tuesday was viewed by at least some in the Israeli political establishment as a way of promoting Netanyahu’s diplomatic and security prowess and also his close ties with countries from the former Soviet Union.
Netanyahu’s political nemesis Avigdor Liberman was born in Moldova and immigrated to Israel in 1978.
Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led government and give the prime minister a majority in parliament after the April 9 Knesset election, leading to another national ballot now, just months later.
Since then, Netanyahu has been on the attack against his former defense minister. The prime minister has been addressing himself to the immigrant population from the former Soviet Union, telling them that even though Liberman’s Israel Beytenu party was founded on the basis of helping immigrants, he as prime minister has done more than Liberman to fight their cause.
Netanyahu visited Ukraine in August, signing a series of agreements with Kyiv, and working to help Ukrainian immigrants to Israel with their pensions, an issue that Liberman has also pledged to advance.
Putin, in Thursday’s meeting with Netanyahu, said that he considered Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union as “our people, our compatriots.” The Israeli prime minister called the immigrants a “human bridge” between the countries.