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Netanyahu to Russia days before the legislative elections in Israel

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit Russia later this week, days before Israel’s September 17 parliamentary election, his office said on Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s office said he would travel to Sochi on Thursday without giving further details, but was expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during the visit.

Netanyahu is seeking votes before the election he fights to win and extend his rule as long as an Israeli prime minister is in office.

As part of his strategy, the prime minister is trying to withdraw votes from his rival Avigdor Lieberman, head of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which relies on support from Israelis from the former Soviet Union.

Netanyahu is trying to present himself as an indispensable leader in Israel by focusing on his relations with world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The prime minister hinted earlier this week that he was likely to travel to Russia to meet Putin and discuss Iran’s presence in neighboring Syria.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and other targets for its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Russia, Iran and Hezbollah support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of the conflict since 2011.

Israel and Russia have set up a hotline to avoid occasional clashes in Syria.

Syrian air defenses mistakenly shot down a Russian aircraft during an Israeli raid, angering the Kremlin and blaming Israel.

Netanyahu met Putin in Moscow just days before the April 9 election.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert failed to form a coalition and favored new elections.

This time, Netanyahu faces a major challenge from former chief of staff Benny Gantz and his center-white blue alliance.

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