Netanyahu ‘hopes for good news’ about Issachar ahead of Putin meeting

Leaders begin arriving for World Holocaust Forum; Russian President will also meet with Abbas on his visit to Jerusalem.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference (photo credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss a likely pardon for Naama Issachar, who is in a Moscow prison, the Kremlin said on Monday.
This was the first time the Kremlin acknowledged talks were taking place between the leaders about Issachar’s fate, as they continued negotiations over her release.
The leaders will meet on Thursday, when Putin will be in Jerusalem for 12 hours to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.
Leaders of more than 40 countries, including presidents, prime ministers, kings and princes, plan to attend the event in honor of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which will also focus on fighting contemporary antisemitism.
Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat met with Issachar’s mother, Yaffa Issachar, and other relatives. After the meeting, Netanyahu said, “I hope… for good news.”
“I hugged her in all of your names,” he said in a video posted on social media following the meeting. “And I told her that, as the Kremlin said today, I plan to meet with President Putin on Thursday and discuss a pardon for Naama.”
Issachar, a 26-year-old American-Israeli, was sentenced last year to more than seven years in prison in Russia for allegedly possessing 9.5 grams of cannabis in her luggage while on a stopover in Moscow on her way from India to Israel. Netanyahu has formally requested that Issachar be pardoned on humanitarian grounds.
A pardon is the likely outcome for Issachar, but it is unclear when it will happen and in what format. One possibility is that she will move to Israel to serve her sentence there, and then, President Reuven Rivlin would either pardon her or commute her sentence.
As for what Russia would receive in return for the gesture, Putin’s camp continues to pressure Israel to give Russia more land in the Russian Compound in central Jerusalem. The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society chairman recently said Putin is “very interested” in buying the Elizabeth Courtyard in the Russian Compound, where there is currently an Israel Police detention center. In 2008, Israel granted Moscow ownership of Sergei’s Courtyard, a guesthouse constructed by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in 1891.
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel plans to meet with Russian special presidential envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov in Jerusalem on Tuesday to discuss Issachar’s case.
Gamliel was in Russia last week, where she asked for a goodwill gesture from Russian officials. Bogdanov warned her at the time that “anti-Russian” statements and accusations of antisemitism will not help Issachar’s case.
Israeli diplomatic sources said publicly pressuring Russia could have an adverse effect on Issachar’s case. Sunday night, her mother called for the cancellation of any protests planned during Putin’s visit.
Putin plans to dedicate a monument to victims of the Siege of Leningrad during World War II in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on Thursday.
The Kremlin also confirmed that Putin will visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his short trip to the region. Abbas and Putin will meet in Bethlehem, where Putin will also visit Christian sites. Putin is also expected to bring up Russian property under PA control.
French President Emmanuel Macron plans to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday.
The first leader attending the World Holocaust Forum landed in Israel on Monday afternoon, Australian Governor-General David Hurley.
The presidents of Georgia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Finland, Portugal, Iceland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia, along with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are expected to arrive on Tuesday.