Presenting himself as a well-connected world leader ahead of Israeli elections, Netanyahu met with the Russian leader to discuss military operations over Syria. Russia also retrieved the body of a fallen Israeli soldier.
Five days before Benjamin Netanyahu aims for a fifth term as prime minister in Israel's elections, he was in Moscow to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin.
The 69-year-old is facing corruption charges in Israel, as well as a strong challenge from a centrist alliance between former army chief Benny Gantz and journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid, who have said they would each serve two and a half years as premier if elected. Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and former military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi are also part of the group.
Thursday's visit to Moscow had been at Netanyahu's request and he had declared ahead of his arrival that it would be to "discuss events in Syria," including the "special coordination between our militaries."
Israel has been trying to get Russia to use its influence with Syria and with Iran to scale down the Iranian military presence in Syria.
Russians on the Golan Heights
Last year, as confirmation of the Russian role in Syria, the defense ministry said Russian military police had been deployed on the Golan Heights frontier between Syria and Israel to set up eight observation posts.
Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian defense ministry official, said that the police presence was in support of UN peacekeepers who had suspended their own patrols in 2012: "Today, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police conducted their first patrols in six years in the separation zone," Rudskoi said at a media briefing in Moscow on August 2, 2018. He added that the eight positions would be handed over to Syrian forces once the situation stabilized.
The US recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights through a presidential proclamation signed by President Donald Trump in Netanyahu's presence in Washington at the end of March.
Repatriated Israeli soldier from Lebanon
As the Israeli and Russian leaders met in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said the body of US-born Israeli Sergeant Zachary Baumel had been recovered. Baumel and two other soldiers went missing in a 1982 battle with Syrian forces in southern Lebanon following Israel's invasion.
Putin said "it was not easy" for Russian special forces to find the remains.
"Our military together with Syrian partners established the place of his burial," Putin was reported as saying. "We are very pleased that at home they can give him the necessary military honors." A ceremony is due to be held in Israel later this week.
jm/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)