Purim dispute aside, Putin reassures Bibi
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