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Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Snap Trip to Russia

The issues on the agenda between Israel and Russia and worthy of being discussed between Russian President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu are many. The Iranian involvement in Syria and the continued Iranian attempts to transfer improved weapons to Hezbollah; Iranian efforts to reach the Israeli border with units of Shiite fighters; the transfer of S-300 missiles for use by the Syrian army, and more. The Russian involvement in the return of the bones of Israeli fighter Zacharia Baumel, who has been absent since the 1982 battles, and the Prime Minister’s desire to express the gratitude of the Israeli people for this humanitarian gesture, is now being added.

The fascinating question is whether there is anything in this agenda that requires the urgency of the Israeli prime minister’s trip to Moscow five days before the elections. Of course, a few days before the elections, it is difficult to hold an objective discussion on this question. It is reasonable to assume that the answers to this question will reflect the political controversy within Israel. The prime minister’s supporters will undoubtedly argue that there are developments that require an urgent discussion that cannot be postponed later after the elections. However, even supporters of the prime minister will not deny the fact that such activity so close to the elections is exceptionally unusual. Opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu will argue that the purpose of the trip is just political and that it is intended only to strengthen Netanyahu’s standing in the eyes of Israeli voters as an important leader in the international arena. This trip brings Russian President Putin too to the list of leaders with whom Netanyahu met only in the past two weeks: the president of the United States, the president of Brazil and others as a photo op on the eve of the elections. Opponents of Netanyahu even suspect that the timing of bringing the missing soldier’s bones is not coincidental and that event has been organized in advance to the eve of the elections. The trip to Moscow to express gratitude to President Putin intensifies the Israeli excitement at the event that exists anyway because of the high sensitivity to soldiers and their families in Israeli society.

In any case, there is no doubt that the political meetings on the eve of the elections, including today’s meeting with President Putin, can make a real contribution to Netanyahu’s campaign, especially since the political field, as prime minister, is his exclusive domain and is not open to his competitors. The question is what motivates the various leaders, in particular, President Putin, to cooperate and help Netanyahu’s election. This question is challenging since Netanyahu represents tough positions toward a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and above him hovering indictments that, on the assumption that he will win, are highly likely to cut the period of his new government.

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