‘Netanyahu goes to Putin to show Israeli voters: ‘I’m an important world leader’
Vladimir Putin’s upcoming talks with Benjamin Netanyahu in Sochi are more important for the Israeli PM’s fight for re-election, but comparing notes with a key Middle Eastern player is also good for Russia, experts have told RT.
When Netanyahu lands on Russia’s Black Sea coast on Thursday, he’ll do so with mostly domestic politics on his mind, says Gideon Levy, Israeli journalist and columnist with newspaper Haaretz. “There is only one purpose to the visit and that’s the election.”
‘It’s all about the election’
“Netanyahu wants to show [voters] that he’s a statesman who meets the leaders of the world” like Putin, he believes.
A snap legislative election is scheduled to take place in Israel on September 17. It was ordered when Netanyahu failed to form a ruling coalition after the vote in April, becoming the first prime minister in the country’s history to commit such a blunder.
“Netanyahu is now fighting for each vote because the picture is very even,” Levy explained.
Sochi was chosen as his destination because “there are many [Israeli] voters who were born in Russia. For them, it might be impressive that President Putin is meeting with Netanyahu so often,” he said.
The fact that the Israeli PM is going to Putin, of all international leaders, ahead of a crucial domestic vote again proves that “Russia is now a very important player in the Middle East,” Tatyana Karasova from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies pointed out. “Even Israel, which used to only look at the US, is unable to ignore Moscow’s stance.”
‘Putin will ask him not to annex Jordan Valley’
The visit is taking place in the wake of Netanyahu’s controversial pledge to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if he’s re-elected. The statement was clearly aimed at garnering support from right-wing political forces before the vote, but the Israeli leader would still have some explaining to do in Sochi.
“The position of Moscow is unchanged – it’s against any annexations,” Karasova pointed out. “Netanyahu needs to make it so that his extremist statements don’t hamper relations with Russia… he values those ties highly and considers them his merit.”
What Vladimir Putin is likely going to tell Netanyahu in Sochi is: “Don’t annex the Jordan Valley,” Dmitry Maryasis, Karasova’s colleague from the Institute of Oriental Studies, pointed out.
He pointed out that Russia maintains its neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is now “seeing the danger in instigating tensions from both sides, as this destabilizes an already explosive region.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has already expressed concerns over Netanyahu’s annexation plans, warning that “they may cause a sharp escalation in the region and undermine hopes for the much-anticipated peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.”
Thursday’s talks might be of more interest to Netanyahu, but it doesn’t mean that Putin will be wasting his time, Maryasis pointed out.
“For Russia, Israel is an important partner in terms of information exchange and coordination during the ongoing Russian military operation in Syria,” Maryasis explained. “Knowing each other’s stance on the key issues in such a turbulent region as the Middle East is important for both sides in order to be able plan their future steps more effectively.”
Besides the mulled annexation of the Jordan Valley and Israeli-Palestinian ties, Putin and Netanyahu will surely be discussing such “everlasting issues” as Syria, Iran and other regional problems, he added.
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