Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew out to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian city of Sochi on Thursday. Netanyahu decided to pay Russia a visit after Moscow condemned the Prime Minister’s pre-election pledge to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
"The leaders will discuss regional issues including the situation in Syria, with an emphasis on tightening the military coordination mechanisms," Netanyahu's office said on Wednesday.
The trip was announced after Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated on Wednesday that the annexation may escalate tensions in the region and "undermine hopes for the establishment of long-awaited peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors".
Before the meeting, Netanyahu assured RBC, which is a Russian media, that he highly appreciates Israel’s friendship with Putin, and close relations between the two countries prevent military clashes in Syria. He also warned Moscow against close cooperation with Iran, as the radical form of Islam imposed by the Iranian side might harm Russia.
Russia has earlier stressed that Israel needs to establish direct talks with Palestinians, which provoked a negative reaction in the Arabian world.
Before the parliamentary election on September 17, Netanyahu announced his plan to grant "sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea immediately after re-election" and a plan "to annex all of the Jewish-only settlements previously established by Israel in the West Bank.”
The Israeli leader strives to get re-elected for the fifth time. His controversial statement, however, has drawn condemnation from the Palestinians, Arab states, the United Nations and the European Union. Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is considered illegal by the international law, as said territories are recognized as occupied.
In his statement, Netanyahu has also noted the US peace-plan, which is expected to see the world after the Israeli elections. The Israeli Prime Minister called the document "a historic and unique opportunity to apply our sovereignty over our settlements" in the occupied West Bank and "other places key to our security, our heritage and our future.”
Netanyahu might have made his statements counting on the US President Donald Trump’s further support. Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the seizure of the Golan Heights earlier, which is a contrast to the UN official position. The American ambassador in Israel and other US politicians strongly support the settler movement to build housing in the West Bank for Israeli Jews.
"Like Mr. Trump, another rabble-rousing politician, Mr. Netanyahu is prepared to sacrifice almost anything on the altar of domestic politics. Millions of Palestinians will end up living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights and under separate legal and education systems. They will be dirt poor and under a permanent military occupation, with their movements curbed," The Guardian wrote.
Israel, occupation and Ukraine
Netanyahu did not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and so-called DNR and LNR in the East of Ukraine. The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude for the recognition of the country’s territorial integrity during Netanyahu's visit to Ukraine.
An expert of the Ukrainian Institute of the Future, Ilia Kusa, warned Ukraine’s new government against excessive flirting with Israel. In particular, he suggested Zelensky refrain from visiting Jerusalem and recognizing it as Israel’s capital.
"Israel might have some provocations in mind, and President Zelensky should not fall into them. All these issues are related to occupation, and this is something Ukraine is struggling with. Ukraine, in turn, cannot make such decisions with respect to other countries. It would hurt our own positions. Ukraine would not be able to properly appeal to the courts and utilize international law. All Ukrainian policies are based on the international law, and Israel does not adhere to them, which a fact," Kusa said in his exclusive column for Apostrophe.
Results of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Russia
The talks at Vladimir Putin’s residence "Bocharov Ruchei" lasted nearly three hours.
Soon after, Netanyahu tweeted that "Russian and Israeli relations have never been closer.”
According to Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, the leaders discussed international issues, focusing on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. They also stressed Syria.
The meeting was especially important as Israel is America’s ally in the Syrian war. The Golan Heights, which is occupied by the Israeli army, is a place of mutual artillery strikes exchange. The Kremlin, in turn, supports the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Netanyahu has also warned Russia of the Iranian radical Islamists threat.
Russia then invited Netanyahu to celebrate its victory in the so-called "Great Patriotic War" (the WWII period from 22.06.1941 to 09.05.1945) in 2020 in Moscow (most of the western leaders refused to visit Moscow due to the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and waging war in the Eаst of Ukraine).