Iran’s supreme leader: Israel’s demise coming faster than I expected

Khamenei, referencing 2015 remarks giving Jewish state another 25 years, says internal crisis over judicial overhaul is tearing country apart sooner than he thought

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, January 9, 2023. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, January 9, 2023. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told local leaders on Tuesday that the “Zionist regime” was disappearing faster than he had anticipated, amid internal Israeli divisions over the government’s controversial judicial overhaul.

“Their own officials continuously warn that their collapse is nearing. Their president says this, their former prime minister says this, their [military] chief says this and their defense minister says this. They all say it,” Khamenei said, appearing to refer to concerns voiced by public figures, such as President Isaac Herzog, that civil conflict could break out over intense disagreements on the legislation that seeks to shackle the Supreme Court.

“They say their collapse is nearing and that they won’t make it to their 80th birthday. We said a few years ago [in 2015] that they wouldn’t reach the next 20 or 25-year point from then. But they themselves are in a rush and want to leave sooner,” he said.

The comments on Israel were made during a special Ramadan address Khamenei gave to government officials in Tehran.

On Twitter, Khamenei also wrote: “The Zionist regime had never faced such a terrible crisis like the current one during its 75 years. It is gripped by severe political instability. In 4 years, it has changed 4 prime ministers, & political coalitions have fallen apart before they have been completely formed.”

Israel was deadlocked politically since elections in 2019. After its fifth election in under four years in November 2022, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, with his Likud party and religious and far-right allies winning 64 seats.

Since forming a government, the Netanyahu coalition has pushed a contentious proposal to weaken the country’s judiciary, drawing severe warnings from the security establishment that the plans have worsened the nation’s strategic position, highlighting the danger of enemies identifying the internal divisions as weakness.

Tensions peaked last week after Netanyahu announced he was firing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for publicly calling for a halt to the legislation due to such concerns.

The announcement sparked spontaneous mass protests, which swelled to a strike announcement by the Histadrut labor federation, including the grounding of outgoing flights from Ben Gurion Airport. Netanyahu then announced a temporary pause to the legislative push, saying he was going to give compromise negotiations a chance. Gallant remains in his post.

In a message to Israel’s adversaries during a Tuesday pre-Passover toast at the Defense Ministry, Netanyahu said that “no [internal] dispute will prevent us from protecting ourselves from attacks.”

In recent weeks, Israel has appeared to step up its attacks on Iran and Tehran-backed groups in Syria.

A fourth airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel within the span of a week was carried out early Tuesday morning, reportedly killing two Syrian civilians.

In a strike last Friday, two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed.

As a general rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but it has acknowledged conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country over the last decade.

Flares of Syrian air defense rockets are seen in the sky of Damascus on April 4, 2023. (Stringer/AFP)

Some Israeli media outlets cited unattributed assessments on Monday that the string of airstrikes in Syria could be linked to last month’s suspected Hezbollah terror bombing near Megiddo in northern Israel, which Jerusalem believes was carried out by a terrorist who crossed the Lebanon border fence using a ladder. One man was seriously wounded in the attack.

While many details of the investigation into the Megiddo bombing are barred from publication, the Haaretz news site cited speculation that the series of airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria could indicate that the IRGC was involved in the latest security incidents.

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