Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(photo credit: GPO)
Amid Russia’s stepped up military activity in Syria and increased tension between Moscow and Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, while Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is expected to come for a visit on November 10.
As has been the case in the past, the Kremlin issued a brief statement about the Netanyahu-Putin call, while the Prime Minister’s Office did not issue any kind of read-out.
According to the Kremlin, Putin “cordially” congratulated Netanyahu on his birthday, and sent greetings on the occasion of Succot:
“The two leaders exchanged greetings on the occasion of the 25th anniversary [October 18] of the restoration of diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel, and emphasized their interest in further developing multifaceted bilateral cooperation. They also discussed urgent international and regional issues.”
This was the sixth phone call between the two leaders this year. They have also met four times
in the past 16 months.
The Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, meanwhile, announced Medvedev’s planned trip last week, saying on its website on the day marking the restoration of relations that the visit will focus on ways to strengthen cooperation in various fields.
“Over the years, our two countries and peoples managed to escape from the unfortunate period of mutual alienation and become genuine partners who understand and who know how to respect each other’s interests,” the statement on the website read. “Russian-Israeli relations have a special character, largely because Israel is home to over a million of our compatriots. The Russian-speaking community is a powerful catalyst for the development of bilateral political, economic, cultural, business and cultural ties.”
Last month, as Russian-US relations continued to sour, Netanyahu explained Jerusalem’s relationship with Moscow when he received an award at the conservative Hudson Institute in New York. He stressed, however, that the US was Israel’s most important and “irreplaceable” ally.
Asked in an on-stage interview why Moscow – which is buttressing Assad’s regime in Syria and is a staunch ally of Iran – wants a stronger relationship with Israel, Netanyahu enumerated a number of different interests.
The first interest, he said, “is to make sure that militant Islam doesn’t penetrate and destabilize Russia. There are many, many millions of Muslims in Russia, including in greater Moscow, I think it’s up to two million. And the concern that Russia has, which many other countries have, is that these populations would be radicalized.”
Blocking militant Islam at its source by fighting Islamic State in Syria, he said, was one of the explanations for the Russian involvement there. Once there, he added, it was in both Israel and Russia’s interest to coordinate “in order not to crash and clash” with each other.
“So periodically, we have to sort of tighten the bolts because not everything that is said at the top necessarily reaches the bottom levels, the field levels,” he said. “They do on the Israeli side, but they don’t necessarily always do so on the other side.”
Netanyahu said that Putin was also interested in good ties with Israel because it is interested in Israeli technology. He also mentioned the million Russian speakers in Israel who form a “human bridge” between the two countries.