Netanyahu. Quick trip to Moscow?
Photo: Flash 90
'No meeting with Netanyahu.' Putin
Photo: AP

Report: PM held secret talks in Russia

Yedioth Ahronoth says Netanyahu's Monday 'disappearance' was actually Moscow visit meant to discuss arms deals between Russian, Iran. PMO asserts Netanyahu was 'handling classified matters,' never left the country

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Wednesday alleged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow earlier this week, where he is believed to have discussed new weapons deals between Russia and Iran.


The Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday that Netanyahu has not left Israel's borders.


A spokesman for Vladimir Putin told Russian news agency Itar-Tass that he knows nothing about the alleged meeting between the Russian prime minister and his Israeli counterpart. However, the spokesman did not deny nor confirm that Netanyahu had visited Moscow this week.


The spokesman, Dmitry Paskov, said Putin's schedule did not include a meeting with Netanyahu.

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Ynet has learned that the prime minister leased a private jet from millionaire Yossi Meiman's Merhav Group because he feared that any flight on an IAF jet would be too vulnerable to Russian and Israeli media exposure.


Reportedly, Netanyahu's office chose to lease at jet from Merhav because they had a jet available on the requested date.


Meiman, owner of Channel 10 and Egyptian gas company, EMG, that supplies gas to Israel Electric Company, is not directly involved in his company's leasing operations. The lease was contracted with one of Meiman's subsidiaries.


Both Merhav and the Prime Minister's Office declined to provide any details about the lease. However, estimates are that the hourly rate of leasing the jet is in the thousands of dollars, and was paid for by the PMO.


Monday morning Netanyahu left his office without reporting where he was headed, his schedule was mysteriously cleared, and his whereabouts were unknown for a several hours.


The prime minster's military secretary later reported Netanyahu had visited a security facility in Israel. At the same time, an Palestinian newspaper reported that Netanyahu had left for a visit in an Arab state that does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.


Ties have been warming between Moscow and Jerusalem in recent months, and it is believed the Russians are showing their gratitude to Israel for responding to their request last year and calling off the sale of tanks and unmanned aircraft to Georgia.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Israeli President Shimon Peres during his last visit to Russia that he had ordered a review of all weapons deals with Syria and Iran, this after Peres presented him with information showing that weapons sold to these countries had been obtained by Hezbollah and Hamas.


"Russia objects to Iran holding nuclear weapons," Medvedev stressed to Peres. "This situation is disturbing to all of us, and we have no doubt that if Iran achieves nuclear weapons, this will lead to a nuclear race in the Middle East, which is the worst possible scenario."


Medvedev also promised to do everything possible to ensure Russian weapons sold to Syria do not reach Hezbollah.


Wednesday night saw the Prime Minister's Office issue yet anther statement in an attempt at "damage control" over Netanyahu's alleged "disappearance": "The prime minister was dealing with matters of a classified nature.


"The military secretary to the prime minister, who had not contacted the PM, took it upon himself to shield this activity by having his communications director issue an independent statement, with the best intentions at heart," said the statement. "National Security Advisor Uzi Arad had no hand in the matter."


Roni Sofer contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 09.09.09, 08:47
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