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Netanyahu (L) with Putin in 2019. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP via Getty

Days after being ousted as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu passed a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin promising a quick comeback, a source close to Netanyahu and a European diplomat told me.

Why it matters: Netanyahu and Putin had a close relationship that grew even closer after Russia began its military involvement in Syria in 2015. Netanyahu flaunted that relationship during election campaigns — meeting with Putin days before the 2019 vote and even featuring a picture of the two together on a campaign billboard to emphasize his stature as a statesman.

Behind the scenes: Shortly after Naftali Bennett was sworn in as prime minister on June 13, the Russian ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, visited Netanyahu bearing a personal letter from Putin which described their time working together.

  • Netanyahu read the letter and told the Russian ambassador: “Tell President Putin I will be back soon," the sources say.
  • Flash forward: Bennett will meet Putin next Friday in Sochi, the Kremlin has announced. This will be their first meeting and will focus on Iran and Syria, according to Israeli officials.
  • What they're saying: “We try not to compare Mr. Netanyahu to the current Prime Minister because Netanyahu worked with President Putin for lots of years and they knew each other very well and it takes time to develop new personal relationships," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told i24News.

The state of play: Netanyahu has not been able to destabilize Bennett's government, which appears on course to pass a budget in early November and thus buy itself another 18 months in power.

  • Internal dissent is growing in Netanyahu's Likud party, but he remains highly popular with the party faithful and Likud has been ticking upward in the polls while in opposition.

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2021 - World

Putin supports week at home for workers amid rising COVID-19 deaths

A serviceman of Russia's Emergencies Ministry wearing protective gear disinfects Moscow's Belorussky railway station on October 20, 2021. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday supported a proposal to institute a non-working week to curb record high coronavirus deaths, AP reports.

Driving the news: Putin said Wednesday that he backs a non-working period, where workers will stay at home, beginning Oct. 30 and continuing through the following week, when four of seven days are already state holidays, per AP.

Oct 20, 2021 - World

Sudan military wants to take power without coup, civilian leader says

Burhan (center) and Dagalo attend a military graduation ceremony. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty

One of the most outspoken and high-profile civilian members of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council (TSC), Mohamed Elfaki Suleiman, said in an interview that the military faction of the council wants to create a government it can control without staging a coup.

Why it matters: Sudan is facing a political crisis 2½ years after the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir. Thousands took to the streets over the weekend to urge the military to take power, while anti-military demonstrations are planned for Thursday. The protests come just three weeks after a failed coup that the government blamed on Bashir loyalists.

1 hour ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.