In a phone call on Monday, PM Binyamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin discussed Syria, regional developments and the need for actions to promote stability. The Kremlin readout added the battle against coronavirus was also discussed and Putin wished Netanyahu a belated Happy Hanukkah. In his New Year greeting, Putin wrote, “Our country attaches great importance to our friendly relations with Israel.” He added: “We expect to broaden our cooperation in the upcoming year and continue to foster the relations and cooperate in taking care of urgent issues on the regional and global agenda.” Close ties, the Russian president stressed, will “promote security needs and stability in the Middle East.”.
Putin’s letter and the phone conversation with Netanyahu was seen as an attempt to clear the air after a tiff between Jerusalem and Moscow. Israel took exception to remarks made by the Russian ambassador Anatoly Viktorov: “The problem in the region is not Iranian activities: It’s a lack of understanding between countries and noncompliance with UN resolutions in the Israel-Arab and Israel-Palestinian conflict,” he said. The ambassador went on to say that there is “no proof Hezbollah created the tunnels” from Lebanon crossing into Israel, and that “Israel is attacking Hezbollah; Hezbollah is not attacking Israel.” Ambassador Viktorov was summoned to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem for a reprimand.