Netanyahu Calls Putin to Wish Him a Happy Novy God and Ask for the Release of Israeli Backpacker Naama Issachar

Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO on 26 December, 2019

By Arye Green/TPS • 26 December, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss foreign policy and request the release of Israeli-American Naama Issachar from a Russian prison. The leaders also exchanged Chanukah and Novy God wishes.

“I spoke on the phone today with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Iran and the situation in Syria. I asked the President once again to bring about the release of Naama Issachar,” Netanyahu tweeted.

“President Putin wished me a happy Chanukah. I thanked him, and I, in turn, wished him a happy Novy God,” he added.

Netanyahu’s call to the Russian president came at a time when Israel and Russia have experienced a decline in their bilateral relations.

One major source of tension, which Netanyahu said was discussed on the call, is Israeli-American Naama Issachar, who is currently serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence in a Russian prison for a minor drug offense.

Russian and Israeli diplomats recently convened in Jerusalem to discuss the matter of Issachar’s imprisonment, as well as the recent detainment of dozens of Israelis at Russian airports.

Netanyahu promised at a rally last week that he would “Bring Naama Home,” but his spokesperson later clarified that doing so would likely take time.

In an interview on Wednesday, Netanyahu said he plans on bringing Issachar back to Israel.

“I will get it done. And I can tell you, it will not take seven-and-a-half-years, it will not take years… Putin has the right to pardon her, I hope and believe that he will execute his right. I have spoken to him many times about it and asked in every possible way,” he said.

The Russian account of the phone call was slightly different, with no mention of Naama Issachar.

“Following an Israeli request, President Vladimir Putin conducted a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. They discussed issues on the regional agenda, as well as some bilateral issues as part of the Russian president’s planned visit to Israel in January 2020,” the Kremlin said.

Putin plans to attend the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem on January 23, along with several other world leaders.

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