WATCH: Netanyahu Praises Iran Protesters For Their ‘Noble Quest For Freedom’
JERUSALEM (JTA) — “I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu, in a video posted on social media on Monday, denied an Israeli connection to the anti-government protests in Iran, which have reached their fifth day with 12 reported dead.
“I heard today Iran’s President Rouhani’s claim that Israel is behind the protests in Iran,” Netanyahu said in the 90 second video. “It’s not only false. It’s laughable.”
Netanyahu saluted the “brave Iranians” who “are pouring into the streets. They seek freedom. They seek justice. The seek the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades.”
He called the Iranian people “smart,” “sophisticated,” and “proud.”
Netanyahu, who also chastised European governments for not being supportive enough of the protests, also said: “when this regime finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again.”
The protests, led by young people, are being held against the backdrop of moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s failure to bring more political change and economic opportunity.
In a crackdown against the protests on Monday, dozens of protesters were arrested and the Telegram messaging app, which has been used as a way for protesters to communicate, continued to be blocked.
Iran last faced mass popular protests in 2009, following the election to a second term of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardliner. Up to 70 protesters were killed in those protests.