Just 24-hours after US President Donald Trump spoke in his inaugural address about the need to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put a brief video clip on social media aimed at placing the Iranian threat squarely back on the international agenda.
“I plan to speak soon with President Trump about how to counter the threat of the Iranian regime, which calls for Israel's destruction,” Netanyahu said in the two-and-a-half minute video addressed directly to the Iranian people.
“This ruthless regime continues to deny you your freedom,” Netanyahu said in the English video, accompanied by Farsi subtitles. “It prevents thousands of candidates form competing in elections, it steals money from your poor to fund a mass murderer like [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. By calling daily for Israel's destruction, the regime hopes to instill hostility between us. This is wrong. We are your friend, not your enemy.”
This was the first video of this sort Netanyahu has put out in months, after putting out several in the spring and summer that addressed issues such as Palestinian incitement and the settlements. It is also the first time in a while that he has exclusively addressed the Iranian issue, other than in a couple of sentences in public appearances here and there.
The release of the video now, just 24-hours after Trump took over from Barack Obama, is an obvious effort to get the world's leaders – first and foremost Trump – to one again focus on the Iranian regime.
Trump has come out squarely against the Iranian nuclear deal. The sense among sources close to Netanyahu is that when dealing with the new administration, Netanyahu will not only have a more receptive ear regarding the dangers that the Iranians pose, but also find an administration more willing to shine the light on Iran’s part in the spread of radical Islamic terrorism, and more vigilant in ensuring that Tehran lives up to its commitments under the nuclear deal.
"We've always distinguished between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said in the video.
“The regime is cruel, the people are not; the regime is aggressive, the people are warm. I yearn for the day when Israelis and Iranians can once against visit each other freely – in Tehran and Isfahan, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” he said. “The fanatics must not win, their cruelty must not conquer our compassion. Our two peoples can work together for a more peaceful and hopeful future for both of us. We must defeat terror and tyranny, and we must ensure that freedom and friendship win the day.”
Netanyahu referenced the Iranian student protests of 2009, which some say was a golden opportunity for change in Iran which was squandered by a lack of unequivocal moral and material support by Obama in the early days of his presidency.
“I will never forget the images of brave young students , hungry for change, gunned down in the streets of Tehran in 2009,” Netanyahu said. “And I will never forget beautiful Neda Soltan – gasping for her last breath on that sidewalk.”
This was a reference to Iranian student Neda Agha-Soltan, whose shooting-death during the protests was caught on video and went viral.
“You have a proud history, you have a rich culture,” Netanyahu said. “Tragically, you are shackled by a technocratic tyranny. In a free Iran you will once again be able to flourish without limit , but today a cruel regime is trying to keep you down.”
While Netanyahu said he will speak to Trump about Iran soon, no announcement has yet been made about when their first meeting will be held, though there have been recent reports it could be as early as the first week in February. Government officials said that the issue will be determined in the coming days.
Netanyahu congratulated Trump on his inauguration in a tweet Friday afternoon: “Congratulations to my friend President Trump,” he wrote. “I look forward to working closely with you to make the alliance between Israel and America stronger than ever. Shabbat Shalom.”