JERUSALEM – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has centered his election campaign on diplomacy and security policy in a bid to boost his chances of winning a fourth consecutive term in office in the upcoming national vote.
With five days to go before the elections, Netanyahu, who has served five times overall, traveled to Moscow, where he met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in what appeared to be an attempt to showcase his image as an expert of Israeli public relations.
“We will discuss events in Syria and they are accumulating, the regular and special coordination between our armies and other important issues for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said before heading to Russia.
Netanyahu looked to depict himself as the right candidate to take on Israel’s security challenge, an ambit he has dedicated much of his political life too, earning him the nickname “Mister Security.”
This trip is the last of a long list of local and international events that were on Netanyahu’s electoral campaign agenda.
During the campaign, he has sought to avoid recent controversy stirred up by corruption charges against him. He has also downplayed less popular issues such as the conflict with Palestinians or the situation in the Gaza Strip.
The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited Israel two weeks ago and stopped by the Western Wall, also known Wailing Wall, located in the occupied Palestinian territory of East Jerusalem, accompanied by Netanyahu.
Pompeo stressed the excellent harmony between both countries and reaffirmed the US’ commitment to Israeli security.
Later, the Israeli prime minister was received in Washington by US President Donald Trump, who took the controversial decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory that has been occupied since 1967; Israel has been seeking international recognition of its control over the heights for a while.
It was seen as a thinly-veiled act of support for the sitting Israeli PM, a close ally of Trump.
The Israeli prime minister’s US visit was cut short due to a sudden escalation in Gaza tensions, provoked by Palestinian militias in the enclave firing a missile at Israel; this matter forced Netanyahu to cancel a speech he was scheduled to deliver before American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful Jewish lobby group.
Instead, Netanyahu participated in the AIPAC via videoconference when he returned to Israel.
During the AIPAC videoconference, Netanyahu said that he got word of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s opening of a commercial office in Jerusalem as an extension of the Honduran embassy in Tel Aviv.
A similar promise was made earlier this week by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who concluded Wednesday a four-day state visit to Israel in which he gave his support to the Israeli leader.
Bolsonaro has publicly shown admiration for Netanyahu, who was one of the international leaders that attended his presidential inauguration held in Brasilia in January.
The Brazilian president promised a shift in relations between Israel and Brazil.
Brazil had been the first South American country to recognize the state of Palestine; Bolsonaro, however, has yet to keep his electoral promise to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the US and Guatemala.
The list of the symbolic events of Netanyahu’s trip also includes the inauguration of the Israeli embassy in Rwanda last week and the big news on Wednesday, when the Israeli leader announced the repatriation to Israel of an Israeli soldier’s remains; this soldier was killed in combat during the 1982 Lebanon War.
The return of the soldier’s remains was emotional news for a Jewish-majority nation where military service is obligatory and the Israeli state has a moral commitment to recover the bodies of all of its soldiers.
It came to pass due to support from Moscow, giving Netanyahu one more opportunity to portrait himself as “Mister Security” and “Mister Foreign Relations.”