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Netanyahu ridicules idea Israel behind Iran protests, chides Europe for silence | The Times of Israel

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PM: Rouhani's claim is 'not only false. It's laughable'

Netanyahu ridicules idea Israel behind Iran protests, chides Europe for silence

In video, PM praises 'heroic' demonstrators protesting against 'cruel regime,' wishes Iranian people success 'in noble quest for freedom'

By TOI staff 1 January 2018, 8:02 pm 6 Edit

Dismissing the notion of any Israeli connection to the ongoing protests in Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the “heroic” demonstrators protesting against the “cruel regime” in a YouTube video published Monday.

“I heard today Iran’s President [Hassan] Rouhani’s claim that Israel is behind the protests in Iran. It’s not only false. It’s laughable. And unlike Rouhani, I will not insult the Iranian people. They deserve better,” the prime minister began.

Rouhani had said earlier Monday that the protests were being pushed by Saudi Arabia, which was trying to destabilize the country along with the US and Israel.

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Netanyahu noted that the demonstrations were led by Iranians. “Brave Iranians are pouring into the streets,” he said. “They seek freedom. They seek justice. They seek the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades.”

Iran President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, December 31, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

“Iran’s cruel regime wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate. This money could have built schools and hospitals,” Netanyahu said. “No wonder mothers and fathers are marching in the streets. The regime is terrified of them, of their own people. That’s why they jail students. That’s why they ban social media.”

“But I’m sure that fear will not triumph,” insisted the prime minister, calling the Iranian people “smart,” “sophisticated” and “proud.”

Netanyahu went on to criticize Europe, which he claimed was not as supportive of the Iranian people as Israel. “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.”

Closing his video message, Netanyahu said that after the fall of the Islamic Republic, Iranians and Israelis “will be great friends once again.”

“I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom,” he concluded.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tweeted his support for the demonstrators Monday afternoon. “[We] call upon the Iranian government to respect the protesters’ right to peacefully raise their voices,” he said. “After the confrontations of the past days it is important to take distance from violent acts.”

Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence said that the Trump administration would not repeat the “shameful mistake” of not expressing support for the Iranian demonstrators.

“As long as @RealDonaldTrump is POTUS and I am VP, the United States of America will not repeat the shameful mistake of our past when others stood by and ignored the heroic resistance of the Iranian people as they fought against their brutal regime,” he tweeted.

“The bold and growing resistance of the Iranian people today gives hope and faith to all who struggle for freedom and against tyranny. We must not and we will not let them down,” Pence added.

US President Donald Trump’s predecessor former US president Barack Obama has been accused by critics of not speaking out forcefully enough in support of demonstrators during mass anti-regime protests in Iran in 2009.

Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STR)

Fresh protests broke out in Tehran as night fell on Monday, with images of burning cars seen on local media along with online reports of heavy police presence.

Social media reports said relatively small groups were chanting anti-regime slogans in downtown parts of the capital.

Earlier in the day, six people were killed in the western town of Tuyserkan, after shots were fired, state television reported, while a local lawmaker said two people had been shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh.

Two others, included a teenage boy, were run down and killed by a fire engine stolen by protesters in the western town of Dorud, the state broadcaster said, bringing the total death toll in four days of protests to 12.

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