Israel’s Bennett, Russia’s Putin speak, agree to meet

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s new prime minister spoke for the first time with his Russian counterpart on Monday and the two have agreed to meet soon, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office tweeted.

Bennett’s office said he thanked Vladimir Putin for Russia’s contribution to stability in the region and that the two spoke of the bridge between the two countries represented by Russian immigrants to Israel. Over 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union have moved to Israel over the past three decades.

Russian mediators earlier this year helped secure the release of an Israeli woman who entered Syria in exchange for two Syrians held by Israel. Bennett said he thanked Putin for Russia’s “assistance on the issue of the captives and the missing.”

It was the first time the two had spoken since Bennett took office last month at the head of Israel’s new coalition government. After two years, Bennett is to step aside while Foreign Minister Yair Lapid rotates into the premiership.