Iran’s national soccer team received a hero’s welcome on its return to Tehran from the World Cup. The team missed out on the Round 16, but only narrowly. It defeated a decent Moroccan team, drew with Portugal, the current European champs, and lost 0-1 to Spain, one of the tournament favorites. That defeat could easily have been a draw or even a victory.
Benjamin Netanyahu, a soccer fan, praised the Iranian team. In a message to the Iranian people, he said: “You showed courage on the playing field and today you showed the same courage on the streets of Tehran.” He added: “One day the Israeli soccer team will play the Iranian one in a free Iran.”
Sticking the knife deeper into the mulllahs, Netanyahu asked:
Can you imagine what your money could do if it was not spent promoting terrorism, in Syria and in Yemen, and instead would be spent to solve air pollution and water scarcity in Iran.
This, of course, is the point being made by Iranian protesters. Their chants include: “Palestine, Syria are reasons of our misery” and “Let go of Syria, think of us.”
It’s one thing for Iranians to chant this, and another for Netanyahu to tweet it. The Israeli Prime Minister must sense that Iranian public opinion has shifted and that the regime may be in trouble. Otherwise, he would worry that his remarks might enable the regime to dismiss and indeed oppress the protesters as agents of the Zionists.
It’s possible that Netanyahu has miscalculated. But Israel keeps a close eye on developments and trends in Iran, and has good sources there. Thus, it’s more likely than not that Netanyahu knows what he’s doing here.