Putin's Jerusalem triumph

Meeting with Netanyahu was seen as of the utmost importance right from the beginning
Meeting with Netanyahu was seen as of the utmost importance right from the beginning

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Israel, where he took part in Holocaust remembrance Day events, as well as unveil the Leningrad siege defenders monument. In addition, he was expected to hold talks with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was also assumed that the Russian leader would visit Bethlehem to negotiate with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Experts emphasized that the meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which was meant to discuss the Middle East issues, most likely, was formal. The talks between Abbas and Putin will not cause serious breakthroughs, it should be seen as a symbolic support for the Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

In contrast, a meeting with Netanyahu was seen as of the utmost importance right from the beginning. First of all, from the position of the Israeli leader. Netanyahu can expect to get whists before the Knesset (parliament) elections - the third extraordinary election over the past year. The Israeli prime minister who likes to flaunt his almost friendly relations with Putin, and who used this during the penultimate election, can once again jumped on this idea in the light of the case of Naama Issachar, an Israeli woman jailed for drug smuggling in Russia. Meeting with the girl’s mother was on Vladimir Putin's agenda, and this is a serious argument in favor of the fact that the Russian president can issue pardon for the Israeli woman. Well, it is hard to imagine - why should the Russian leader spend time on such a meeting, if not?! Certainly not to complain to a heartbroken woman that "she had raised a bad daughter." And the Israeli prime minister could try to use the liberation of Naama Issachar for the election campaign.

Along with this, Israeli experts said that, on the contrary, perhaps it would be better for Netanyahu to distance himself from this story. First, it demonstrates that his relations with Putin are not that close, and maybe even vice versa - what kind of friendship they have if an Israeli citizen was put to jail for a few grams of hashish,which is hardly considered an offense in Israel. Second, there is talk that the liberation of Naama Issachar can happen in some connection with the transfer of the Russian Compound in Jerusalem to Russia, and all this is somehow ambiguous. Third, usually the same electoral move does not work twice in Israel, and if once the Putin factor helped to win part of Russian-speaking voters, now it’s probably not worth to wait the success to be repeated. Especially since Netanyahu was not able to form the Cabinet twice.

Fourth, Vladimir Putin's visit to Israel is especially important not in light of the mentioned above, but because it's the first visit after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Israel welcomed the successful U.S. operation. Russia's attitude is the opposite. At the same time, Israel does not hide certain hopes that Russia will be able to appropriately influence pro-Iranian groups in Syria, aggressively hostile to Israel and extremely hurt by the killing of   Soleimani.

Fifth, perhaps that’s why Vladimir Putin’s reception in Jerusalem as guest No. 1 with having a 'first word' at Holocaust remembrance Day events, the unveiling of the Leningrad siege defenders monument, amid numerous high-ranking guests - 47 heads of state and parliamentary chairmen from Europe, America and Australia, had the double meaning.

Sixth, one of these meanings is Israel's once again emphasized recognition of the USSR crucial role of the in the war against Nazis, while a number of states are busy rewriting history and manipulating well-known facts in order to belittle Moscow's merits.

Needless to say that the Russian president took advantage of the opportunities provided by Israel. It is worthwhile to note that the receiving side would probably want a little more certainty with the issue of Naama Issachar. But, of course, the president isn't obliged to to make any promises on such a issue. After meeting the mother of the convicted girl, the Russian leader delicately noted that he was convinced that she comes from a good family and said: "Everything is going to be alright with her. I am aware of the position of [Israeli] Prime Minister who asks to make an appropriate decision. All that will certainly be taken into account when the final decision is made."

Against such a general background, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky's visit seems completely disastrous. His speech was denied by the hosts. Probably his flirtations with Ukrainian nationalists haven't gone unnoticed by Israelis. He was also denied a meeting with Vladimir Putin. The Russian side explained it with the lack of time - the originally planned two-day visit of the Russian President was cut to one day due to the difficult situation in connection with the government reshuffle. However, he found the time for meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

But it wouldn't be Putin if he just took advantage of the opportunities provided, and the triumph would not be complete without a powerful exclamation mark. And he put it, proposing to hold an "important and symbolic" meeting of the heads of the permanent members of the UN Security Council - Russia, China, the U.S., France and Britain. The countries, as the Russian leader said, which bear special responsibility for the situation in the modern world: world leaders should confront the rising tide of anti-Semitism fueling hate and do everything to protect peace. According to Putin, the meeting could be held at any point of the world that is convenient: "Russia is ready for such a serious discussion. We plan to send corresponding messages to these countries' leaders without delay." He believes that one of the topics that could be discussed at such a meeting is Libya. But there are a lot of complex urgent problems now. And French president Macron backed this proposal, while calling Putin "my dear friend": "We must protect peace."