Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Moscow Thursday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, just five days before parliamentary elections at home.
The vote is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, who has campaigned on his foreign policy prowess and relations with world leaders.
The trip to Moscow, made at Netanyahu’s request, came a week after he traveled to Washington and met with President Donald Trump at the White House. Netanyahu also hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Jerusalem earlier this week.
Before departing from Israel, Netanyahu said he and Putin would “discuss events in Syria,” including the “special coordination between our militaries.”
The Kremlin had said earlier this week the two would “compare notes” during a brief meeting, the third for the two leaders in recent months. Israel and Russia have a military hotline to coordinate air force operations over neighboring Syria.
Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term in the elections next Tuesday.
Missing soldier’s remains returned
On Wednesday, Israel announced the recovery of the remains of a soldier who went missing in a 1982 battle with Syrian forces in southern Lebanon. Putin acknowledged that Russia had worked to retrieve Zachary Baumel’s remains from Syria.
“Our military together with Syrian partners established the place of his burial,” Putin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “We are very pleased that at home they can give him the necessary military honors.”
Cases of missing soldiers have a powerful emotional and political resonance in Israel, where military service is compulsory for most Jewish men. Netanyahu lauded the repatriation of Baumel’s remains as an “expression of mutual responsibility and feeling of unity” that epitomizes Israel.