Photo Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin

At the start of his meeting on Wednesday in the Kremlin with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first congratulated the president and the Russian people on their holiday, Defender of the Fatherland Day. “We will never forget the roles played by Russia and the Red Army in defeating the Nazis,” he said.

Netanyahu used his meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday as an opportunity to sum up their shared cultural, military and political accomplishments for reporters who would later receive transcripts and recordings of the meeting.

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But that having been said, Netanyahu also didn’t hesitate to repeat to Putin his concerns over Iran’s presence across Israel’s northern border.

“The greatest threat to stability and security in the region comes from Iran and its proxies,” he said. “We are determined to continue our vigorous action against the attempts by Iran, which calls for our destruction, including its attempts to entrench militarily in Syria.”

Nevertheless, Netanyahu didn’t harp on the point — at least in front of the cameras — but instead underlined “our excellent bilateral relations, which are due to the over 1 million Russian-speakers who have contributed greatly to Israel, have become part of us and have brought the Russian culture as part of Israeli culture. Moreover, tourism is at an all-time peak; 400,000 Russians visit Israel every year and approximately 200,000 Israelis visit Moscow every year.”

As always, the prime minister thanked his host for his friendship and for the “direct, open and genuine manner in which we maintain the links between Russia and Israel.”

Netanyahu has met more often with Putin — 11 times since 2015 — than with any other world leader, including any president of the United States.

The prime minister invited Putin to be the guest of honor at the dedication ceremony for a memorial in Jerusalem to those who fell during the siege of Leningrad. “Mr. President, I would like to invite you to be our guest of honor,” Netanyahu told Putin. “No one is more deserving.”

Putin has accepted the invitation.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.