PM Netanyahu's Statement After Meeting with President of the Russian
Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin
President Putin, Vladimir, I want to welcome you and your delegation to
Mr. President, this is your second visit to Israel as President. Following
your first visit to Israel seven years ago, Israel and Russia significantly
upgraded their relations. You mentioned the considerable expansion in
trade, the economy, culture, science, technology and tourism. The foundation
for the relations between our two countries is not only common interests,
but the more than one million Russian-speaking Israelis. They constitute a
vast human bridge, and, in just a few short years, the Russia-speaking
immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union have become an integral
part of Israeli society.
They are partners in the army, in hi-tech, in science and medicine, in art
and culture. Mr. President, they are also partners in the government. You
know Foreign Minister Leiberman well, but there are many others including:
Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein; Minister
of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov; Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver;
the chair of our coalition, Zev Elkin; Natan Sharansky, who heads the Jewish
Agency; Eugene Kandel, my national economic advisor; and many others.
I must say that, rumors to the contrary, I do sometimes work with people who
are not Russian speakers, but there is no doubt that the public of
Russian-speakers in Israel truly serves as a living bridge between Israel
and Russia. A lot of people are crossing that bridge. In the past year
alone, over half a million Russian tourists came to Israel. Thatís an
enormous number for a country the size of Israel. It has multiplied by a
factor of seven in the three years since we eliminated the need for visas
Tourists from Russia come to Israel because they like this country; they
like the sun; they like the sea; they like the history, the holy sites, and
we look after these as if they were the apple of our eye. In the Middle
East, Israel safeguards freedom of religion. All this means that Israel is
a country in which Russian tourists can feel at home.
Despite all this, I have no doubt that we have barely scratched the surface
of what we can accomplish together, and therefore I am certain that your
current visit will lead to a further upgrade in agriculture, science,
hi-tech, space and in many other areas
Mr. President, you are coming at a time of tremendous changes in our region.
Yesterday, Egypt elected a new President. Israel appreciates the democratic
process in Egypt and respects the results of its elections. We look forward
to working with the new government on the basis of our peace treaty. I
believe that peace is important to Israel; I believe that peace is important
to the Egyptians; I believe that peace is a vital interest for both
countries; and I believe that peace is the foundation for stability in our
We just had the chance to discuss the current negotiations between the
international community and Iran. We agree that Iranís continued pursuit of
nuclear weapons is a grave threat first and foremost to Israel, but also to
the region and to the world.
Israel believes that the international community should have three clear
demands of Iran: Stop enriching uranium inside Iran; remove all the enriched
uranium from Iran; and dismantle the underground nuclear facility near Qom.
That is why Israel believes the international community must now do two
things: ratchet up the sanctions against Iran; and also ratchet up the
demands that are being made of Iran.
Mr. President, we all aspire to peace. I look forward to discussing with
you ways in which Russia can help Israel and the Palestinians advance peace,
even during these challenging times, maybe especially during these
There is a slight difference between us that we discussed prior to beginning
the press conference. Mr. President, when you want to visit a neighboring
country, you usually fly from Moscow for several hours. Our neighborhood is
much smaller. Tomorrow, you will meet with President Abbas in Bethlehem,
which is a four to five minute drive from here. Ramallah is only ten
minute's drive from here. The key to peace is complex, but in the end it is
very simple: either President Abbas must come here or I must go to him, and
I am willing for either of these possibilities to occur, however we must
begin to talk. I hope you convey this simple message tomorrow during your
meeting in Bethlehem.
Regarding our neighbor to the north, a way to end the killing and the
terrible suffering of the citizens of Syria must be found, and peace,
security and regional stability must be pursued as far as is possible during
these turbulent times.
Mr. President, two years ago during my visit to Moscow, I promised on behalf
of the State of Israel that we would memorialize the historic role played by
the Red Army in defeating the Nazis. Today, I am pleased to say, we kept
that promise. You just came from Netanya, from the moving ceremony
inaugurating that same memorial that recognizes the tremendous contribution
of the Red Army in the victory over the Nazis. For us, memory is a part of
our existence. We fight against Holocaust denial and we join in the fight
against the attempt to deny the important role played by the Red Army in
defeating the Nazi monster.
This is a fundamental and important part of our heritage. Approximately
half a million Jews fought in the ranks of the Red Army, including thousands
of veterans who currently live in the State of Israel. Each year I meet
them on Victory Day. They proudly wear their medals and I ask them, "For
which battle did you receive this?" One tells me, "In the battle defending
Moscow". Another answers, "In Stalingrad". A third says, "In Kursk", and
there are those who say, "Many places". We salute them today. We salute
all those who fought and sacrificed their lives for humankind.
Mr. President, over the past twenty years, a special relationship between
our peoples was built, and I am certain that your visit in Israel will
greatly contribute to the strengthening and deepening of these ties in the
years to come.
Welcome to Israel. Welcome to Jerusalem.