Purim dis­pute aside, Putin re­as­sures Bibi

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin last Thurs­day in Moscow seems to have been over­shad­owed by re­ports on the con­tem­po­rary mean­ing of Purim.

Three days be­fore the fes­ti­val, Mr Ne­tanyahu chose to high­light the fact that the Jews still com­mem­o­rate a 2,500-year-old plot to ex­ter­mi­nate them and that “to­day there is an at­tempt by Per­sia’s heir, Iran, to de­stroy the state of the Jews”.

Mr Putin re­sponded: “We now live in a dif­fer­ent world. Let us talk about that now.”

While the ac­counts of the ex­change be­tween them have cre­ated the im­pres­sion that the re­sults of the meet­ing were un­sat­is­fac­tory, Mr Ne­tanyahu re­tuned to Is­rael with the con­clu­sion that the Rus­sian pres­i­dent re­mains sym­pa­thetic to Is­rael’s se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The main items on the agenda were the ar­range­ments Is­rael is de­mand­ing for Syria now that the As­sad regime seems to have en­sured its sur­vival — with mas­sive mil­i­tary as­sis­tance from Rus­sia and Iran.

Mr Ne­tanyahu as­sured his Rus­sian coun­ter­part that Is­rael was not in­ter­ested in in­ter­ven­ing in Syr­ian pol­i­tics but that it was adamantly op­posed to any Ira­nian mil­i­tary pres­ence re­main­ing there, or that of Iran’s proxy, Hizbol­lah.

While it seems that no def­i­nite agree­ment was reached last week in Moscow, se­nior Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials be­lieve Mr Putin will be amenable to at least re­strict­ing Iran and its prox­ies’ pres­ence to ar­eas of north­east Syria which are not close to Is­rael’s bor­ders. Such an ar­range­ment would not al­low Iran di­rect over­land ac­cess, through Iraq or Syria, to the Mediter­ranean coast.

While Mr Putin urged Mr Ne­tanyahu to fo­cus on the present, he made

a his­tor­i­cal ges­ture of his own. At the meet­ing, he gave the prime min­is­ter a valu­able gift — the first printed edi­tion of Jose­phus’ The Jewish War, printed in Italy in 1526. The book will be given to Is­rael’s Na­tional Li­brary and the gift was in­ter­preted by Mr Ne­tanyahu as a per­sonal ges­ture by Mr Putin de­signed to ap­peal to his own his­tor­i­cal in­ter­ests.

In an­other al­ter­ca­tion over his­tory, the Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammed Jawad Zarif re­sponded an­grily on Sun­day to a video of Mr Ne­tanyahu telling chil­dren at a Megillah read­ing on Purim Eve: “To­day the Jewish peo­ple face an­other

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