Netanyahu traveled to the Black Sea resort to meet the Russian leader – just five days before the election – in a move widely seen as an effort to woo elder Russian-speaking immigrants.
The results of the Knesset election are very important to Moscow, and it hopes politicians will be elected who will maintain close ties with Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Sochi on Thursday.
Netanyahu traveled to the Black Sea resort to meet the Russian leader – just five days before the election – in a move widely seen as an effort to woo elder Russian-speaking immigrants who form an important base of support for Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party.
Putin, who left Netanyahu waiting for the meeting for some three hours, said that he considers the “over one and a half million immigrants” from the former Soviet Union who live in Israel to be “our people, our compatriots.”
The Russian president noted the importance of the two countries’ cooperation on security issues, and said that “largely thanks” to Netanyahu’s efforts, security ties and military cooperation between the two states have taken on “a new quality.”
This is the 13th meeting between the two leaders since September 2015. Putin indicated that he plans to attend an event hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at Yad Vashem in January, marking 75 years to the liberation of Auschwitz.
In comments before the meeting, Netanyahu made a clear appeal to immigrant voters, saying that they form a “human bridge” between the two countries, and thanked Putin for reaching agreements concerning pensions and veterans benefits.
Netanyahu said that the close personal ties between him and Putin “prevent unnecessary and dangerous friction” between the Israeli and Russian militaries operating in the region.
“I say openly that this is a basic element in regional security,” he said. “The military cooperation between us is always important, but it is especially important at this time, since in the last month there has been a very grave increase in the number of Iranian attempts to attack Israel from Syria, and also to place precision missiles there against us.”
Netanyahu termed this an “intolerable threat” to Israel, and one that it will act against, making the coordination between Moscow and Jerusalem all the more important.
Prior to meeting Putin, Netanyahu met with Russian Defense Minister Sergi Shoigu, and said afterward that Israel was working continuously to ensure that the IAF retains freedom of action in combating Iran’s efforts to entrench itself in the region.
This echoed comments he made just before flying to Russia in the morning, saying that coordination with Moscow was critical since Israel is “currently operating in several arenas” to ensure security “in the face of attempts by Iran and its proxies to attack us.”
Indicating the political nature of the trip, Netanyahu – in a brief video he uploaded after meeting Shoigu – spoke of the Russian-speaking immigrants’ contribution in establishing Israel’s special connection with Moscow, something he said is “very important to Israel’s security.”
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.
Content retrieved from: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Netanyahu-gets-pre-election-support-from-Putin-in-Sochi-601544.