Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Vladimir Putin to wish him a happy birthday on Monday as the Russian strongman celebrated his 67th trip around the sun. In response, Putin wished Netanyahu a happy Jewish new year.
“I had an important conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Netanyahu said during a new year’s celebration at the Prime Minister’s Office.
“I met with him a few weeks ago on issues that are important to the security of the State of Israel and this conversation is also important for the security of the State of Israel,” he said. “We have great challenges around us, but we also enjoy important cooperation and coordination with Russia, and this is critical for us and we will continue to do so.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly touted his close relationship with the authoritarian strongman, who has served as the Russian president since 2000, with a break in 2008-2012 to serve as prime minister.
This July, in a move targeting Israeli-Russian voters ahead of the repeat elections in September, Netanyahu’s Likud party hung a massive picture of the prime minister with Putin on its headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Prior to the election, Netanyahu flew to Russia to meet with Putin in Sochi. Meeting with Putin, the prime minister hailed bilateral relations, saying they have never been better. He cited two reasons: more than one million Russian-speakers live in Israel and building a “human bridge” between the two countries, and the “direct relationship” between himself and Putin.
Putin, speaking before Netanyahu at the September sit-down, stressed his commitment to Israel’s security but did not address his ostensibly close personal ties with Netanyahu.