About a week ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video on Facebook of his Purim visit to a synagogue in Caesarea. Surrounded by children in costume, Netanyahu asks: “What do we celebrate on Purim?” The children look at him confused. “What did they want to do to us then?” the prime minister says, offering them a broad hint. In chorus, like a flock of parrots trained by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the children enthusiastically reply: “Kill us!”
Like a lawyer coaxing a witness, Netanyahu continues: “Where did they want to kill us then?” to which the children respond: “In Persia.” Netanyahu smiles euphorically. “And did they manage to do so?” The children answer: “No!” Netanyahu got what he wanted. “Today, too, Persians are trying to destroy us, but today, too, they won’t succeed!”
Netanyahu frequently accuses Muslim religious figures of spreading hatred and of incitement in mosques and schools. Just after the 2016 terrorist attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, he said: “Radical Islam is carrying out wild incitement against the State of Israel in the entire Arab sector. The incitement in the mosques, in the educational system … we are acting vigorously against this incitement.” What he did at the Caesarea synagogue is not in any way different.
And it’s not just in synagogue. In the educational system, he is inciting and scaring young children. In 2015, he told first graders in Ashkelon, near the border with the Gaza Strip: “We are educating our children towards peace. A few kilometers from here, Hamas is teaching its children the opposite, and on occasion, it’s trying to shoot at us, at you, and my policy is clear: No tolerance for terrorism.” Educating towards peace? It sounds like educating towards hatred and war, coming from someone who just recently rejected a regional peace initiative.
Netanyahu chose to cynically exploit innocent children for his own political ends. When he’s in distress, he resorts to incitement. When he was afraid of a rout in the last election, he warned: “The Arabs are going to the polls in droves.” When the case of the handling of the purchase of German submarines was disclosed, he accused Arab citizens of engaging in “arson terrorism.” When he encountered trouble exerting control over the new public broadcasting corporation, he turned it into “a corporation of the left,” and in the face of the police investigations against him, he brings up that old villain, Iran.
Once the international community reached agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, he almost never mentioned Iran as a threat, but recently there has been almost nothing that he has said that hasn’t related to Iran. At the beginning of the month, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to express his opposition to “Iran or its satellites establishing themselves in Syria.”
Three days later at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, he warned: “We warned then of the growing monster of terrorism, sponsored by Iran, which sends metastases throughout the entire world, and it is still here.”
And in an interview with Fox News in February, he said of Iran: “They believe that they’re destined to govern the world. Anybody that doesn’t agree with them, they’ll be able to subjugate or kill, and they’re working on the means to achieve that.”
To put Netanyahu’s comments on Iran in perspective, it’s worth recalling an interview that the prime minister gave to CBS’s “60 Minutes” in December. After waging a scare campaign for years against Iran’s arms program, Netanyahu warned that Iran has enriched fuel for three atom bombs, and in a speech to the United Nations, he used a drawing of a bomb.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, he said rescinding the Iranian nuclear agreement will not push Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and that actually even before it was signed, it was deterred from doing so. “I think Iran didn’t rush to the bomb before there was a deal,” he said, “because they were afraid of retribution.”
The only conclusion that one can reach from all of this is that we need to be skeptical of every word from this man. When Israelis again hear Iran, they should try to figure out right away what Netanyahu is trying to deflect attention from this time.
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