Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Thursday, after the latter’s military was instrumental in locating the remains of an Israeli soldier, missing for 37 years.
In his public remarks, Netanyahu explained that he had turned to the Russian leader for help in recovering the remains of Israeli soldiers missing in action (MIA) and presumed dead for nearly four decades. One of the Israeli prime minister’s specific requests was information regarding Sgt. Zachary Baumel, who was one of those soldiers who went missing on June 11, 1982 at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during the First Lebanon War.
“I would like to thank you, my friend, for myself and for the people of Israel, for what you have done, for the brave friendship between us, which is very important for our country and is very important for the relations between us. But I think that here it is on a higher level and has expressed a great common value that unites our two peoples. I would like to thank you on behalf of the entire people of Israel,” said Netanyahu.
Putin maintained that Russia, through its Defense Ministry, was gratified that it could aid the repatriation of a lost soldier. “Our military, together with Syrian partners, established the place of his burial,” Putin said at the start of the meeting. “We are very pleased that at home they can give him the necessary military honors.”
Many Jewish communities around the world often pray for the return of missing IDF soldiers, some thought to still be held in captivity and others whose whereabouts are unknown. While the repatriation of Zachary Baumel’s remains is a source of pride, rather than celebration per se, some commentators have criticized the timing of Netanyahu’s visit – five days before a critical election – as a cheap political stunt.
During their Moscow tete-a-tete, Netanyahu and Putin discussed the ongoing tensions in the region, particularly Israel’s determination to not allow Iran any kind of foothold in Syria. Despite differing priorities, Israel’s prime minister has determined to maintain a warm relationship with the Russian strongman.