Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has boasted many times of his close relations with world leaders, foremost among them US President Donald Trump, and less obviously, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Thanks to the relationship with Putin he managed to achieve the release of the Israeli-American Naama Issachar, who has been imprisoned in Russia the past few months. The price of the deal, it seems, is not very high, certainly compared to past deals to release soldiers or kidnapped citizens, where thousands of murderous terrorists were freed. Netanyahu has shown that his relationship with Putin has a practical payoff, even if the Russian president continues to support regimes that are enemies of Israel, like Iran, and opposes opening the nuclear deal and sanctions on the ayatollahs.
Issachar was arrested in April 2019 during a stopover at the Moscow airport on her way from the Far East to Israel. A relatively small amount of 9.5 grams of hashish were found in her bag. In October, a Russian court convicted her of possessing drugs and of trying to smuggle them into the country, and gave her a surprising heavy sentence of 7½ years in prison. The Israeli Foreign Ministry called it “a disproportionately heavy punishment to be handed out to an Israeli young woman with no criminal record,” and the feeling in Israel was that Issachar was punished harshly as a means for the Russian government to exert pressure on Israel to receive some kind of exchange.