Israel attempts to walk back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s shockingly overt comments about “war with Iran” on the sidelines of a US-organized Middle East “peace” conference.
Speaking in a short video recorded on the sidelines of the anti-Iran meeting in Warsaw on Wednesday, hawkish Netanyahu said the event “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.”
Netanyahu’s office posted the Hebrew-language video on Facebook and Twitter, in which he could be heard using the Hebrew word “milchama,” which literally translates to “war.”
It also tweeted Netanyahu’s remarks on its English-language Twitter account.
The Israeli premier’s open call for war with Iran led to an uproar on social media and even startled the White House, which had earlier claimed the Warsaw forum was not meant to “demonize or attack Iran.”
The backlash prompted Netanyahu’s office to quietly delete the tweet and replace it with another one that changed the phrase “war with Iran” to “combating Iran,” without issuing a retraction or a correction of any kind.
Israeli media later attempted to portray Netanyahu’s gaffe as a mere translation blunder.
The US government quickly reached out to Israeli officials to ask for an explanation, according to NBC News.
American delegates traveling with Vice President Mike Pence -- who is attending the summit in Warsaw, said that senior Israeli officials told the US that it was a matter of “bad translation,” the report added.
Senator Angus King, (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, rejected the idea that Netanyahu had simply been mistranslated, and said “he knew what he meant.”
An Associated Press correspondent based in Israel said that he had himself heard Netanyahu using the word ”milchama.”
Did @netanyahu really say “war” with Iran? I was there and the word was ”milchama” = war. pic.twitter.com/ZzhrDs2lWA
— Aron Heller (@aronhellerap) February 13, 2019
Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Warsaw forum would purportedly focus on the “important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”
Later, however, and as officials from various countries indicated their refusal to participate, US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen said the meeting was “not a venue to demonize or attack Iran,” in an apparent about-face.
Many countries have refused to send representatives to the conference.
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