A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he's bringing back an Israeli currently held in a Russian jail for minor drug charges to supporters' chants of "He's a wizard," sources close to the premier clarified that he "meant to say that he was committed to bringing her home, it will take time."
Naama Issachar is serving a lengthy jail sentence in Russia, which she was sentenced to after 9.6 grams of hashish were found in her luggage during a layover in Moscow, an imprisonment seen as a Russian bargaining chip in efforts to prevent the extradition of hacker Alexey Burkov, who was held in Israel but turned over to the United States last month.
On Tuesday, Issachar's mother sent a letter to Netanyahu on the matter. Hours later he told party activists: "You say I'm a wizard, but I'm no wizard when it comes to Putin. I can promise you one thing – I'm bringing Naama Issachar home."
Issachar's family had petitioned against Burkov's extradition but dropped its case in November after speaking to government officials, concluding that once Burkov is extradited to America, Russia will no longer have anything to gain by holding Issachar, which would allow the Israeli government to focus on exploring other channels to secure her release.
On Wednesday, dozens of Israeli tourists and businessmen were delayed for several hours at Moscow airport. Sources in Jerusalem said it was intended as a "message" to Israel over its treatment of Russian nationals at Ben Gurion Airport.
Also delayed was Israeli journalist Itamar Eichner, who said Russian authorities asked him not to cover the hearing in Issachar's appeal, scheduled for Thursday.