Netanyahu’s staff scrambles after he speaks of ‘war against Iran’

Netanyahu’s staff scrambles after he speaks of ‘war against Iran’

Tehran’s FM, major media outlets report on apparent belligerent statement posted to social media; officials then update translation to say PM merely seeks to ‘combat Iran’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

WARSAW, Poland — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he spoke of a joint interest in “war” in the context of the struggle against Iran.

In a Hebrew-language video message recorded before he headed to the opening of a Middle East conference in Warsaw, the prime minister hailed the fact that an Israeli leader was about to sit down with senior officials from “leading Arab countries” in order to “advance the common interest of war against Iran.”

An official translation of the statement, provided by the Government Press Office, translated Hebrew phrase milhama b’Iran literally “war with Iran,” when it was not clear that Netanyahu had meant literal military action.

The prime minister’s social media accounts published the statement, leading numerous people, including Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to point out its ostensible belligerency.

Numerous other users of social media, among them senior journalists, also wondered whether Netanyahu had just publicly called for open war with Iran.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment by the time this article was posted.

About one hour after the post went live, as Netanyahu was already sitting at a reception at Warsaw’s historic Royal Castle, his staff deleted the first tweet and replaced it with a softened version, reading: “What is important about this meeting — and it is not in secret, because there are many of those — is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran.”

Minutes later the GPO also reissued its translation of the statement with the gentler wording.

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