At Lapid’s Request, President Herzog Speaks with Russian President Putin About Jewish Agency Crisis

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President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, speaks at the 19th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group at the VERT Jerusalem Hotel. Jerusalem, Feb 7, 2022. Photo by Shalev Shalom/TPS
By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 9 August, 2022

Jerusalem, 9 August, 2022 (TPS) — Israel’s President Isaac Herzog spoke on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following motions by the Russian Ministry of Justice to ban the activities of the Jewish agency in the country.

Russia’s Ministry of Justice requested last month the liquidation of the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, which helps Jews immigrate to Israel. The Ministry of Justice believes that the Jewish Agency “violated Russian law in its work.”

A Moscow court held a preliminary hearing in the case concerning the association operated by The Jewish Agency for Israel in Russia and it was determined that a trial will take place on August 19.

In their conversation, the presidents discussed Israeli-Russian bilateral relations, “including the challenges of the Jewish People in the Diaspora,” Herzog’s office said, and in this context, Herzog “elaborated on the issue of the activities of the Jewish Agency in Russia.”

“The phone call was frank and honest. The two Presidents emphasized the important areas of cooperation between Israel and Russia and agreed to remain in contact,” the Israeli statement said.

The Kremlin stated that the two discussed the Jewish Agency’s problems in Russia that “the contacts on this matter will continue through the relevant departments of the two countries.”

An Israeli diplomatic delegation that was recently in Moscow returned without achievements, according to reports.

The phone call was initiated by Herzog at the request of Prime Minister Yair Lapid and in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lapid stated in July that “the relations with Russia are important for Israel, and that the large Jewish community in Russia is important,” but “closing the Jewish Agency offices would be a serious event that would affect relations.”

Some reports claim that Russia is upset that Lapid became prime minister. Several sources have noted that Russia’s pressure on the Jewish Agency began after Lapid entered office. Russia’s ambassador to Israel reportedly sent messages to Israeli sources saying that the Russians are unhappy with Lapid as prime minister, because of his statements against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As foreign minister, Lapid stated in March that Israel condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is “without justification.” After the massacre in Bucha, Ukraine, in April, Lapid stated that “intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it.”

Later that month, Lapid described the images and testimony coming from Ukraine as “horrific” and accused the Russian military of committing war crimes against a “defenseless civilian population,” adding that he “strongly condemns these war crimes.”

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