Putin Calls Out Netanyahu for Exploiting Purim Story to Disparage Iran
This video is a PressTV interview I did critiquing Netanyahu’s abuse of the Book of Esther to gin up hysteria against Iran.
Bibi Netanyahu is trying his best to get out from under the cloud of three different corruption investigations. During his last police interrogation he conveniently managed to have Pres. Trump call him during his meeting with them, with a message of encouragement. Bibi’s also been traveling around the world to any country that will have him. His most recent trip was this week to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin.
Israel and Russia have a close relationship. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is reportedly very close to the Russian leadership. There is a great deal of coördination between the two militaries regarding Syria. Both have a military presence there (in Israel’s case it is more covert) and seek to avoid accidents and interference in each others initiatives. Both countries also have competing interests regarding Iran, which Russia supplies with advanced military weaponry and its nuclear facilities like the Bushehr reactor.
Given his political weakness (if he is indicted as a result of any of the investigations he will likely be forced to resign), his rivals like Naftali Bennett are exerting intense pressure from his political right. They’re advocating annexing the West Bank in order to garner further support from the settler lobby, one of the most powerful factions in Israeli politics.
Netanyahu, who is rather a deft political tactician while a horrid strategist, sees Iran as the perfect pressure valve to use to release the air in Bennett’s tires. If he can gin up increased fear of Iran, he will divert the attention of Israel’s voters from domestic issues like annexation. This is also the reason Trump and Netanyahu have engaged in this odd dance lately in which the president has toned down significantly his support of Israeli expansionism. He’s stopped talking about moving the embassy, asked Israel politely to stop building new settlement housing “for a little while,” and not said a word (as he had earlier) about supporting a one-state solution. He’s even purportedly warned Israel not to pursue annexation.
So it’s no surprise Bibi chatted up Putin about Iran when he was in Moscow. He trots out the same history lessons over and over for his foreign audiences. Since it was the holiday of Purim, which commemorates an ancient Persian failed attempt to exterminate the Jews, the Israeli leader did a little Ziosplaining to the Russian president:
In a meeting with Putin in Moscow, Netanyahu said Persia had made “an attempt to destroy the Jewish people that did not succeed” some 2,500 years ago, an event commemorated through the holiday of Purim, which Israel will celebrate on Sunday and Monday. “Today there is an attempt by Persia’s heir, Iran, to destroy the state of the Jews,” Netanyahu said.
“They say this as clearly as possible and inscribe it on their ballistic missiles.”
In the video above, Bibi offers the same lesson he tried to teach Putin to a gaggle of Israeli pre-schoolers. They regurgitated it to him like trained seals. How inconvenient that Putin wasn’t someone Bibi could lecture like a 4 year-old.
The Israeli tried to same ploy in his speech to the U.S. Congress in 2015, which he delivered in a deliberate attempt to embarrass Pres. Obama. In that case, the trumped up historical analogy went over well. But Putin is a far more astute student of history and he was having none of it:
…Putin said that the events described by Netanyahu had taken place “in the fifth century B.C.” “We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now,” Putin said.
Despite my severe allergic reaction to virtually everything Putin represents, in this case he was exactly right. Israel has no right to expect the world owes it anything based on the myths inscribed in ancient Jewish texts and traditions. They are, to quote my grandmother, bubbeh meises. They belong in the synagogue where the Book of Esther is recited. Not in the halls of power where decisions are made affecting the lives of tens of millions.
Further, Bibi’s Purim shpiel to Putin omits a key Persian figure in Jewish history: he was Cyrus the Great, a Persian ruler who, after the Jews had been exiled from Israel after destruction of the First Temple, encouraged them to return to their homeland. Isn’t it convenient for Bibi to omit such a benevolent Persian ruler who liberated the Jews and delivered them from exile?
If Israel were to determine its foreign policy according to which nations historically did the most damage to the Jewish people, there would be many who’ve harmed it far more than Iran. Christian medieval Spain expelled almost every Jew from its lands and tortured thousands into converting to Christianity. Nazi Germany murdered 6-million Jews as recently as half a century ago. Why go back 2,500 years to find enemies when you have such a ready enemy much closer at hand? Could it be that Germany is a far more helpful nation to Israel than Iran? One that has provided millions in Holocaust reparations, not to mention nuclear-capable Dolphin submarines?
Netanyahu made a further error when he attempted to enlist Putin in Israel’s war against Shia Islam. Russia certainly faces a battle against Islamists within and without its borders. But its enemies aren’t necessarily Shia and certainly not Iran. That’s why this appeal fell on deaf ears:
Putin’s comment came after Netanyahu stressed that while Israel was capable of defending itself, the country — and the whole world — remained threatened by radical Shia Islam.
“The threat of radical Shia Islam threatens us no less than it does the region and the peace of the world, and I know that we are partners in the desire to prevent any kind of victory by radical Islam of any sort,” Netanyahu said.
Unlike Trump, Putin wants no part of propping up Bibi’s political fortunes by trashing Iran. Russia’s interests are based on the value another nation brings to it. Relations with Iran benefit Russia in a number of important ways. Putin is not about to throw over Iran because it will help save Bibi’s political hide.