Oct 20, 2021
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What will Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Bennett discuss?

Zvi Magen, Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Tel Aviv, former Israeli Ambassador to Russia and Ukraine, and Head of the Nativ Bureau:

The first meeting between Vladimir Putin and Israeli new prime minister Naftali Bennett… The meeting is timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the restoration of Russian-Israeli relations.

For Bennett, this is an important meeting that aims to establish a relationship of trust with the Russian president and prove that he is good at handling the challenges of “big politics.” His predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who held out in his second term in the chair of the Israeli prime minister for 12 years, was proud of a special friendship with Putin and with Trump

Despite personal sympathy for Netanyahu, Putin was one of the first leaders to congratulate Bennett on taking office. They have already spoken on the phone twice; the Israeli prime minister even congratulated the Russian president on his birthday. Moreover, Bennett was one of three “non-post-Soviet” leaders who congratulated Putin (he received calls from Turkish President Erdogan and the new Japanese Prime Minister Kushida). But the visit to Sochi is far from the first “summit” of the Israeli prime minister. It seems that the sequence Washington – New York – Egypt – the summit with Angela Merkel in Jerusalem, and only then the meeting with Putin – is thought out.

Iran, as always at the Israeli-Russian meetings, will take the first place. The views of Moscow and Jerusalem on specific approaches to solving the Iranian nuclear problem, to put it mildly, are not close. But there is agreement on the end result. Bennett will demand that Putin put pressure on Iran. In recent days, the Iranian chief of staff visited Moscow, met with all the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, including the “gunsmiths” from the FSMTC. Israel will ask Russia not to sell weapons to Tehran, despite the lifting of the embargo on their supply.

It seems that the leaders of the countries will try to revive the political track on Syria and the Iranian presence, as well as restore the trilateral dialogue between the heads of the Security Councils of Russia, the United States and Israel, which began in Jerusalem in 2019, but was subsequently frozen.

Bennett will be accompanied by the Russian-speaking Minister of Construction Zeev (Vladimir) Elkin… Under Netanyahu, he was in charge of the Israeli side of the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation. Serious conversation is expected, it is important for the parties to return trade ties to the “pre-epidemic” level as soon as possible. The parties can announce the resumption of tourism to Israel for the Russians vaccinated with Sputnik V. Putin and Bennett will also talk about the important for both of them topic of the historical memory of the Holocaust and the Great Patriotic War.

The Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University (INSS) will publish a book on the 30th anniversary of the Russian-Israeli partnership in the coming weeks and will hold a conference on this topic in December. The Russian side in this project is represented by the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (MGIMO). The publishing project is being prepared by leading Israeli, Russian and American experts and aims to reveal the versatility of interaction between countries, assess their current state and think about the future.

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of the editorial board

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