Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow Thursday as part of a state visit amid warming relations between the two countries.
Putin greeted Netanyahu with holiday blessing, wishing Israelis a happy Purim, referencing the Jewish festival celebrated this coming Sunday and Monday.
“You often come to Russia right on the eve of holidays, and so I want to take the opportunity to congratulate you on the upcoming Purim holiday and wish everyone in Israel happy holidays and prosperity,” he said.
Ahead of his closed-door meeting with Putin, Netanyahu addressed journalists, discussing shared threats facing the Russian and Israel, as well as the expanding partnership the Prime Minister described between the two nations.
“Our frequent visits reflect genuine friendship and a tightening of relations in economics, technology, tourism and culture, as well as the living bridge of the one million Russian speakers living in Israel. One of them is translating for us now. But in this context, I would like to point out that in recent months we concluded the agreement on pensions between us. I would like to thank you for your personal involvement.”
The Prime Minister singled out the efforts of both Israel and Russia against Sunni terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda as a central area of cooperation between the two powers. He also made a subtle reference, however, to Moscow’s client state, Iran, and the Tehran regime’s support of Shi’ite terror groups across the Middle East, including Hezbollah.
“One of the things that we are fighting together is radical Islamic terrorism. Of course, in the past year there was significant progress in the fight against the radical Sunni Islamic terrorism led by [ISIS] and Al Qaeda; Russia has made a very important contribution. Naturally, we do not want this terrorism to be replaced by the radical Shi’ite Islamic terrorism led by Iran.”
While Netanyahu did not explicitly mention Iran’s nuclear program, he did reference its recent ballistic missile tests and warning of the global dangers of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran.
“I thank you for your Purim greetings. 2,500 years ago in ancient Persia there was an attempt to destroy the Jewish People that did not succeed and we mark this on the holiday of Purim. Today there is an attempt by Persia’s heir, Iran, to destroy the state of the Jews. They say this as clearly as possible and inscribe it on their ballistic missiles.
“Of course, I would like to say as clearly as possible: Israel is a state today. We have an army and we are capable of defending ourselves. But the threat of radical Shi’ite 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.”
VIDEO: Purim gives Netanyahu a 500 year old copy of the book The Jewish War by historian Josephus