JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Iranian anti-government protesters on Monday, while denying as “laughable” Tehran’s apparent accusations that Israel was behind the demonstrations.
Five days of protests in Iran have posed the boldest challenge to its clerical leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009. At least ten people have been reported killed as some confrontations with police turned violent.
“I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom,” Netanyahu said in a video posted on his Facebook page.
“Brave Iranians are pouring into the streets. They seek freedom. They seek justice. They seek the basic liberties that have been denied them for decades. Iran’s cruel regime wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate,” he said in remarks that echoed similar praise from U.S. President Donald Trump.
On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quoted by state media as apparently blaming Iran’s arch enemies, the United States and Israel, for provoking unrest.
“Our success in the political arena against the United States and the Zionist regime was unbearable to (Iran’s enemies). Iran’s success in the region was unbearable to them. Don’t you expect that they would seek revenge? Don’t you think they would provoke some people?” Rouhani was quoted as saying in a meeting with lawmakers.
Netanyahu said Rouhani’s suggestion that Israel was involved was “not only false — it’s laughable”.
Netanyahu added that more Western countries should condemn Tehran for trying to put down the protests.
“Sadly many European governments watch in silence as young heroic Iranians are beaten in the streets. That’s just not right. And I, for one, will not stay silent,” he said.
Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams; Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Peter Graff