Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stole the show during a Trump administration summit in Warsaw, Poland focused on “peace and security” in the Middle East when he said the meeting would be helpful “to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” Although the the statement was quickly scrubbed from social media and replaced with a message of “combatting Iran,” the Iranian government, and many others, took notice.
The initial statement was made in a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s office this afternoon in Poland.
“From here I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting 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 war with Iran.”
“What we are doing is pushing and driving Iran from Syria. We are committed to doing this,” Netanyahu also said, “It is cold in Warsaw right now but Israel’s foreign relations are warming up, warming up for the better.”
Yet shortly after a spokesperson for Netanyahu released an updated translation over social media clarifying Netanyahu was not seeking conflict with Iran, rather a detente. While not acknowledging the change in text, the suggestion is that a translator made an ill-placed error. A copy of a recording of the statement was preserved for posterity by the Intercept’s Travis Mannon. In the video, posted to social media by the Israeli government in a now deleted tweet, the prime minister can be heard using the word “war,” not “combat.”
If there was a word blunder on the part of Netanyahu, it already caused damage with Iranian leaders.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took a screen shot of the transcript sent to reporters in which Netanyahu said he was building allies to go to war with Iran and posted it to social media. “We’ve always known Netanyahu’s illusions. Now, the world – and those attending
#WarsawCircus – know, too,” Zarif said.
Zarif, who did not attend the meeting in Poland, also attempted to cast blame on the U.S. over Twitter for an attack on the Revolutionary Guard that killed 27 near the border with Pakistan today. “Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that
#WarsawCircus begins?” he wrote, “Especially when cohorts of same terrorists cheer it from Warsaw streets & support it with twitter bots? US seems to always make the same wrong choices, but expect different results.”
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 13, 2019
Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that #WarsawCircus begins? Especially when cohorts of same terrorists cheer it from Warsaw streets & support it with twitter bots? US seems to always make the same wrong choices, but expect different results.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 13, 2019
The conference comes amid disputes with European allies after the U.S. pulled out of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action last year, the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the Trump administration’s recent announcement to scale back troops in Syria. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the summit last month in Cairo, indicating the administration could seek to renegotiate the deal, however, without Iran’s presence.
“Countries will all come together to focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence,” Pompeo said from Egypt.
The secretary was joined in Warsaw by Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, the senior advisor to the president and his son-in-law. They are expected to also use the forum today and Thursday to seek support for the Trump administration’s unreleased peace plan between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Yet the Palestinian leadership boycotted. Russia, China, Turkey and Lebanon also shunned the summit.
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said earlier this week the agenda was “an Israeli-centric fake solution that normalizes Arab-Israeli relations at the expense of Palestinian rights.”
“The U.S. administration is seeking Arab funding for a politically and morally bankrupt ‘economic peace’ that denies the Palestinian people’s rights to national sovereignty, including in Jerusalem, and negates the rights of Palestine refugees,” her statement continued.
For Netanyahu, Warsaw was also an opportunity to strengthen ties with Arab leaders. He held a sideline talk with Oman’s Foreign Affairs Minister Yusuf bin Alawi this morning. The meeting marks the second high level discussion between the two countries in recent months after more than two decades of frayed relations.
“This is an important and new vision for the future. People of the Middle East have suffered a lot because they are stuck to the past. This is a new era for the future and for prosperity for every nation,” bin Alawi said.
Last year Netanyahu flew to Oman for a secret meeting with Sultan Qaboos bin Said that was revealed only after he returned to Israel.