Netanyahu’s September Surprise? Report Says Putin May Visit Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
Giant banners of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are hung on the Likud’s party headquarters as part of the election campaign in Tel Aviv, Sunday. (Reuters/Nir Elias)

In what he may be hoping will be a “September surprise” to help him clinch the elections – and pull the electoral rug out from under Avigdor Liberman – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is working to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Israel before the elections.

The state visit by Putin, sources told Kan News, would shore up the Prime Minister’s support among Russian-speaking voters, and present him as a strong leader with warm and personal ties to the world’s two greatest superpowers “If that doesn’t convince the voters, then nothing will,” the report quoted a source in the Prime Minister’s Office as saying.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s advisers are also seeking to send the Prime Minister on state visits to other countries, again to stress Israel’s high ranking in the world and the good relationships he has personally fostered with other world leaders. A report on Channel 12 said that among the destinations being considered are the United States, India, and Japan.

Netanyahu visited Moscow earlier this year, and invited Putin to Israel. The Russian President said he would attend a ceremony in Yerushalayim for the dedication of a memorial to those killed in the siege of Leningrad during World War II. The memorial is set to be built in Sacher Park, at a cost of NIS 1.2 million.

Netanyahu’s office is seeking to hold the ceremony in September, right before the election, the report said, adding that its cost is being underwritten by a businessman, Michael Mirilshvelly, who has strong ties with several prominent politicians, including Liberman, Rabbi Aryeh Deri and Yuli Edelstein.

In recent days, the Yerushalayim municipality has given its final approval for construction of the memorial. The Channel 12 report said that Netanyahu’s office had been pressuring the city to move quickly on the permits, in order to ensure that the dedication could take place in September. In a statement, the Likud said that the request for approval of the memorial had been made many months ago.

“Currently there are no efforts being made to arrange for a visit of President Putin, but he is always welcome,” the statement said.