Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kept noticeably silent at Sunday’s cabinet meeting regarding internal developments in Iran, apparently not wanting to give the Iranians any excuse to blame the “Zionists” for the protests there.
Iran’s media has already blamed the US, Israel and Britain for fomenting the demonstrations.
On Saturday night, Netanyahu reportedly instructed his cabinet ministers to minimize comments on the situation in Iran.
Nevertheless, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara all posted tweets about the issue.
“The Iranian people are courageously risking their lives in the pursuit of freedom and a better, more peaceful future for themselves and their children. The civilized world must support the Iran protests,” Hanegbi tweeted.
Kara wrote that the demonstrations are a sign of a “positive awakening” inside Iran. Israel has nothing against the Iranian people, only against the “radical and dangerous” regime of the ayatollahs,” he added.
“When that dictatorial regime does an injustice and oppresses its people,” he wrote, “the public takes to the streets, and I hope that the change will come from within.”
But Netanyahu, rather than discussing Iran at the start of the meeting, opened by discussing the situation on the border with Gaza, saying Israel will strike at anyone who tries to harm it. His comments came hours after the Israel Air Force hit a Hamas outpost in Gaza Saturday night.
“Israel views Hamas as responsible for any shooting at us from the Gaza Strip,” the prime minister said in the wake of rockets fired on Israel from Gaza on Friday afternoon. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday that the mortars that were fired on Israel were supplied by Iran.
Netanyahu said that since Israel destroyed an additional terror tunnel from Gaza earlier this month, the IDF has hit some 40 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. This comment came soon after Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay said in an Army Radio interview that the government has no clear policy regarding the rockets from Gaza, other than to blame Iran.
Netanyahu suggested that “people who have never had responsibility for security for even a minute, or who have never made a decision regarding security even once,” should “calm down.”
Netanyahu said that his government is leading a “firm and responsible policy” that has made Israel “quieter and safer” than it has been for decades.
Gabbay fired back at Netanyahu, saying in response that Netanyahu promised to crush Hamas in Gaza, but is “keeping it alive,” and that he appointed Liberman defense minister last year, even though he said just prior to the appointment that Liberman “was not worthy of being a military commentator.”
“Hamas has been firing on the south for more than a month and you are silent,” he said. “We have lost the deterrence in Gaza and you are responsible for it.”
Netanyahu also related, during the cabinet meeting, to a recent letter signed by some 60 draft-age students saying they will refuse to serve in the IDF because “the military carries out a racist government policy that violates basic human rights and imposes one version of law for Israelis and another for Palestinians – on the same territory.”
Netanyahu said he views “gravely” the phenomenon of refusing to enlist, even if the phenomenon is very marginal.
“The tragedies that have befallen our people have passed from the world because we established the State of Israel and the IDF, and because we rehabilitated our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves,” he said. “The IDF is what ensures that our future will be different than our past. I am pleased that the great majority of the public understands that and immediately rejects the refusal to enlist.”