Netanyahu Catches Twitter by Surprise, Launching Farsi Account Ahead of Iran Deal

At first, Iranian and foreign journalists covering the nuclear negotiations thought the account was a parody - but they were wrong.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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A screengrab of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new Farsi Twitter account, @IsraeliPM_Farsi, on July 13, 2015.
A screengrab of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new Farsi Twitter account, @IsraeliPM_Farsi, on July 13, 2015.
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Two tweets posted Monday afternoon to the Twittersphere caught no few professional tweeters covering the nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers in Vienna by surprise. The reason for this was that the tweets, written in the Persian language of Farsi, came from an account called "Israeli Prime Minister."

At first, the Iranian and foreign journalists in Vienna thought it was a parody, but within a short time, it became clear that this account was official in every way, being run by the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem.

The timing with which Benjamin Netanyahu's Farsi Twitter account was launched was not coincidental. A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office who is involved in operating the account said the intention was to integrate the move into the framework of hasbara efforts against the emerging nuclear deal.

Although the account was launched during the decisive moments of the negotiations for an emerging nuclear agreement, it will continue to operate permanently even after a nuclear deal is announced, in order to convey Netanyahu's messages directly to Iranian citizens. The Prime Minister's Office refuses to say which individuals are operating the new account. All they will say is that the people operating it are professionals who have a good command of Farsi, and that specific content will be uploaded to the new account.

"Despite the regime's efforts to block access to social media, there is a lot of activity on Twitter by Iranians," said the official at the Prime Minister's Office. "The new account will serve as a tool for conveying our messages directly to Iranian public opinion – both about Israel and the consequences of a nuclear agreement. It is important to convey information about what Israel is, because they have been brainwashed since 1979. We believe there is room for a wide range of activities and influence."

Despite that the Iranian issue is of great importance to Netanyahu, the creation of a Farsi Twitter account is his first significant attempt to directly address the Iranian people on a permanent and systematic basis. In recent years, Netanyahu has given interviews to BBC Persian and after he addressed both Houses of Congress in March, his speech was translated to Farsi and uploaded to his English and Hebrew Facebook pages. These, however, were isolated acts.

The interview Netanyahu granted BBC Persian in September 2013 got him into trouble among no few young Iranians who watched him speak. The youths, many of whom voted for President Hassan Rohani, were angered by Netanyahu's comment in English that "If the people of Iran were free, they could wear jeans and listen to Western music.”

In response to the utterance, dozens of young Iranians embarked on a "jeans protest" against Netanyahu, and began tweeting photos of themselves wearing jeans on the streets of Iran. Some of them mocked Israel's intelligence agencies, saying they were so busy surveilling the Iranian nuclear program that they neglected to update Netanyahu on fashion trends in Tehran.

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