Herzog and Putin discuss Jewish Agency fate in Russia amid court threat

Call comes as fate of Jewish Agency hangs in balance amid Russian court threat to shut down the quasi-government organization in the country.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin walks past a TV camera during a parade marking Navy Day in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 31, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin walks past a TV camera during a parade marking Navy Day in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 31, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV)

Amid threats to stop the operations of the Jewish Agency in Russia, President Isaac Herzog spoke on Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin as part of an Israeli effort to overturn the decision.

Due to the phone call, Herzog had cut short a meeting with Nepal ambassador Kanta Rizal, who had just presented her credentials.

What was discussed?

The two presidents discussed bilateral matters between the countries, the challenges of the Jewish Diaspora and the ongoing crisis with the Jewish Agency. Putin told Herzog that he remained committed to commemorating the Holocaust and promised to stand by Jewish communities in Russia.

According to one of Herzog’s spokesmen, the discussion between the two presidents was frank and honest, with each side emphasizing important areas of cooperation between their two countries.

In the context of their references to Diaspora Jewry, Herzog emphasized the issue of Russia’s decision to close down the activities of the Jewish Agency.

 A view shows a sign at the entrance to a Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in Moscow, Russia July 21, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA) A view shows a sign at the entrance to a Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in Moscow, Russia July 21, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)

As a former chairman of the agency, Herzog’s interest in the matter transcends his presidential duty to raise the subject with his counterparts in countries where Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry may be at risk.

Herzog and Putin agreed to remain in close contact.

Russia and the Jewish Agency

Ever since the news broke that Moscow had ordered the Jewish Agency to cease its operations in Russia, there has been anticipation that Herzog would be asked to call Putin. It was only a matter of time for that decision to be reached by the powers that be.

Last week, a meeting between an Israeli delegation sent to Moscow and Russian officials from the Justice and Foreign ministries hit a dead end regarding the status of the Jewish Agency in Russia.

Diplomatic sources familiar with the meeting told The Jerusalem Post, “The meeting took place on Monday morning between public servants and not with the political echelon that actually makes decisions. Therefore, as expected, the meeting was very technical and discussed the legal implications of the Russian privacy laws.”

The official explained that “the hope was that the Russians would give a hint toward a direction that would help the Israelis understand what can be done to save the Jewish Agency in Russia from liquidation. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”

No further meetings were scheduled and no decisions were made.