Israel's Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow

Israel's Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow

Israels Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Moscow on April 4 to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Israeli leader's office said on April 2.

The statement did not elaborate on the intended topics of discussion. The two leaders will meet five days before Israel's April 9 election in which the right-wing Netanyahu faces a strong challenge from a centrist candidate.

On April 1, Netanyahu told reporters he and Putin spoke by telephone about Syria, whose Russian-backed president, Bashar al-Assad, has been gaining ground in an eight-year civil war.

Israel worries Assad's Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements could set up bases to attack it from Syria, and has carried out scores of air strikes against them.

The meeting could also help Netanyahu in the closely contested election, in which he has played up his statecraft and security credentials in the face of the politically untested challenger Benny Gantz, a former military chief.

With election day approaching, opinion polls put Netanyahu's right-wing Likud and Gantz's centrist Blue and White party neck and neck.

The four-term premier faces criminal charges in three corruption cases, pending a review hearing after the election. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing and described himself as the victim of liberal media bias and judicial overreach.

Netanyahu forged a pre-election alliance last month with Jewish Power, an ultranationalist party that includes adherents of the late anti-Arab rabbi, Meir Kahane.