Why Netanyahu decided to speak out about the protests

Netanyahu has made four small videos addressing the Iranian people over the last three months.

January 2, 2018 00:08
3 minute read.

Netanyahu wishes "the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom" (YouTube/IsraelPM)

Netanyahu wishes "the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom" (YouTube/IsraelPM)


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For five days, since the Iranian protesters first took to the streets on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said nothing about the demonstrations.

For five days he held his tongue and asked his cabinet ministers to do the same, believing that anything anybody with authority in Israel would say about the protests would and could be used against the Iranians who took to the streets.

Foremost in the minds of some who advocated this policy was the results of Israel’s very public support in September of independence for Iraqi Kurds. Rather than lead other countries to express similar support, or do much more than giving some moral support to the Kurds themselves, these statements were used by Iraq, by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and by Iran against the Kurds.

Seeking to avoid a replay, Netanyahu’s policy up until Monday afternoon was just to keep quiet.

But then two things happened. The first was that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani publicly blamed Israel and the US for fomenting the unrest. The second was the deafening silence of the Europeans.

As a result, Netanyahu uploaded a 90-second video in English onto his Facebook page, which was also subtitled in Farsi and placed on his Farsi Facebook page as well, in which he directly addressed both those issues.

Netanyahu dismissed Rouhani’s accusations of Israeli responsibility for the protests as “ridiculous,” “laughable” and an insult to the intelligence of the Iranians.

Netanyahu has made four small videos addressing the Iranian people over the last three months, girded by a sense that they are being seen in Iran, and that it is important for the Iranians to hear that Israel is not their enemy.

Monday’s message to the Iranians was that they should not be taken in by the same type of propaganda that has been used since the Islamic revolution in 1979 – that Israel is responsible for all their woes.

The videos on Iran that Netanyahu has made over the last several months have had the dual purpose of expressing empathy with the Iranian people themselves, as well as with bringing the true nature of the Iranian regime, its brutality and oppressive policies to the attention of the world. This, for instance, was one of the key messages of Netanyahu’s speech to the UN in September.

The other message Netanyahu was keen on getting out on Monday was that it is time for the Europeans to speak out. While the Iranians are protesting, he said, “Sadly, many European governments watch in silence as heroic young Iranians are beaten in the streets. That’s just not right. And I for one will not stay silent.”

Ever since the protests began on Thursday, voices have been raised in Jerusalem saying that Israel and other countries in the West must take a public stand, just as they did during the days of the Soviet Union when numerous world leaders publicly supported the Soviet dissidents.

Although the Soviet authorities used those words of support as “proof” that the dissidents were in the pay of the West, it did give the dissidents themselves important moral support and a sense that the world was watching and taking note.

While US President Donald Trump has tweeted messages of support to the Iranian demonstrators five times since last week, most other Western leaders have not followed his lead. Netanyahu’s video was an attempt to get them to add their voices as well.

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