Yaffa Issachar (2-L) with PM Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) at Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2020. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO) (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Issachar Netanyahu Putin

Officials close to the Israeli prime minister credited the “close and personal relationship” between Netanyahu and Putin for the “significant progress” towards Issachar’s release.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS and United with Israel Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Thursday with Russian President Putin in Jerusalem, where they discussed, among several issues, the release of Na’ama Issachar, a young Israeli jailed in Russia.

Issachar, 26, was arrested in April during a layover in Moscow on the way back to Israel, after 9.5 grams of marijuana were found in her checked luggage. She was convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Issachar denied having packed the cannabis in her luggage.

Putin is in Israel together with 46 dignitaries to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center and to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Yaffa, Issachar’s mother, was invited to join the latter part of the Putin-Netanyahu meeting, which the Israeli leader described as “excellent.”

“At its conclusion, President Putin asked to bring in Yaffa, Na’ama Issachar’s mother. This was a very moving meeting. I am very grateful to you for this gesture, my friend the President,” Netanyahu said.

“It is clear that Naama comes from a very good family,” Putin responded. “The Prime Minister’s position is known to me – to decide appropriately. All of this will be taken into account when a decision is made.”

He promised that Na’ama will meet the same day “with the person responsible for maintaining human rights in Russia.”

“Her mother was very moving and supports her daughter. I said to her and I will say it again – everything will be alright,” he said.

Officials close to the prime minister credited the “significant progress” towards Issachar’s release to the “close and personal relationship” between Netanyahu and Putin.

Netanyahu spoke to Putin seven times about Issachar’s release, and along with conversations held between Israeli and Russian officials, the issue was raised about 20 times since Issachar’s arrest on April 9 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where she had stopped for a connecting flight to Tel Aviv from New Delhi.

However, while Israeli officials expressed optimism about the prospects of Issachar’s imminent release, Israel will likely pay a price.