Photo Credit: President of Russia, The Kremlin, Moscow
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, meeting in Moscow in March 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters following his meeting in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that he made it clear that Israel strongly opposes any permanent role for Iran in Syria.

“Mr. Putin and Mr. Netanyahu discussed the situation in the Middle East, in particular in Syria, in the context of joint efforts to combat international terrorism, and examined the main areas of bilateral cooperation,” said the Kremlin in a statement following their meeting.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and officials meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and counterparts at The Kremlin in Moscow

Prior to the start of the talks, Russia’s president offered Purim greetings to Israel’s prime minister.

“I am very pleased to see that we have such close and trusting contact. We meet regularly in person, are regularly in contact by telephone, and work together at the ministry and agency level. You often come to Russia right on the eve of holidays, and so I want to take the opportunity to congratulate you on the upcoming Purim holiday and wish everyone in Israel happy holidays and prosperity. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss with you our bilateral relations and the situation in the region,” Putin said.

Netanyahu thanked him and then reminded him that the holiday related to an attempt around 2,500 years ago, in ancient Persia to wipe out the country’s Jews.

“I am pleased to see you again as part of the regular visits that underscore the friendly relations between our countries. We see how our ties continue to develop in the economy, culture, and tourism. Of course, there is also the human bridge between our countries – the million Russian-speaking Israelis (one of them is translating my words right here and now),” he said.

“One of the things that unites us is our common fight against radical Islamic terrorism. Substantial progress has been made over the last year in fighting radical Sunni Islamic terrorism led by ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and Russia has made a great contribution to this result and this progress. Of course, we do not want to see Shia Islamic terrorism led by Iran step in to replace Sunni Islamic terrorism.

“Thank you for your congratulations on the upcoming Purim holiday. In ancient Persia, an attempt was made to destroy the Jewish people 2,500 years ago, and it failed. This is what this holiday celebrates. Today, ancient Persia’s successor, Iran, continues attempts to destroy the Jewish state. They speak of this openly and write this in black and white in their newspapers.

Today, we have our own country and our army, and we can defend ourselves. But I want to say that the threat of Shia Islamic terror is directed not only against us, but against the region and the entire world. I am sure that we seek to prevent the threat of all radical Islamic terror, no matter whether it is Shia or Sunni.”

After the meeting, Netanyahu said, “While Israel is not opposed that there should be an agreement there, we strongly oppose the possibility that Iran and its proxies will be left with a military presence in Syria under such an agreement. I think that this was made clear in the best way. From my experience with President Putin, these matters are important not only in preventing misunderstandings, but in the end they will also find expression on the ground.

“The second thing is that we were informed that pursuant to the anticipated conclusion of the historic pension agreement between us, there will also be an agreement on the veterans. An end will be declared to this painful humanitarian problem – so President Putin told me – on May 9.”

Netanyahu also said the two men discussed a series of bilateral economic and other issues, and that he raised the issue — as he said he does elsewhere in the world — of the fate of the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, and the two Israeli civilians still being held by Hamas in Gaza. “I asked for the Russian President’s humanitarian assistance and he promised to give it,” he said.


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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, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.