WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handed President Barack Obama a gift on Monday that spoke volumes about Israel’s tensions with Iran - an ancient Hebrew tome about a Persian plot to annihilate Jews.
It’s called the Scroll of Esther, a tale of palace intrigue featuring a Jewish beauty who charms a Persian king into foiling an evil adviser’s genocidal plans for her people some 2,500 years ago.
“Then too, they wanted to wipe us out,” Netanyahu told Obama, according to an Israeli official.
Jewish faithful gather in synagogues on Wednesday to read the parchment text, popularly known as the Megillah, on the eve of the Jewish costume holiday of Purim, a celebration of salvation and of turning the tables on one’s foes.
“And the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and with slaughter and destruction, and did what they would unto them that hated them,” one of the verses says.
Netanyahu, who has called Iran’s nuclear program a threat to the Jewish state’s existence, made a point of telling reporters after his White House meeting with the president that he had given the Megillah to Obama.
The Israeli leader, in a frosty meeting with Obama last May, lectured the president on Jewish history and criticized his approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu has also invoked the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed, in citing the dangers he says a nuclear-armed Iran - the modern-day Persia - would pose.
Obama appealed to Netanyahu at their White House meeting to give economic sanctions time to work, amid concern that Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, could strike Iranian atomic sites.
Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.
Writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Todd Eastham