Netanyahu does what comes naturally. He stands by the demonstrators. He also does the diplomatic thing and keeps mum on Obama while giving a reluctant Gregory a lesson in democracy and immoral equivalency.
MR. GREGORY: This is an unfolding story that we’ve been seeing all week long. The images from the streets are disturbing, you have a violent crackdown under way in Iran. What does your intelligence in Israel tell you about the weakness, the nature of the Iranian regime today?MR. NETANYAHU: Well, it’s not my intelligence, but my common sense and the traditional sense. Obviously, you see a regime that represses its own people and spreads terror far and wide. It is a, a regime whose real nature has been unmasked, and it’s been unmasked by incredible acts of courage by Iran’s citizens. They, they go into the streets, they face bullets.
And I tell you, as somebody who believes deeply in democracy, that you see the Iranian lack of democracy at work. And I think this better explains and best explains to the entire world what this regime is truly about.
MR. GREGORY: I ask about your intelligence services as well in terms of what hard information you have about what’s going on inside the regime.
MR. NETANYAHU: I don’t know if anyone really knows, and I cannot tell you how this thing will end up. I think something very deep, very fundamental is going on, and there’s an expression of a deep desire amid the people of Iran for freedom, certainly for greater freedom. But perhaps the word is a simple one, freedom. This is what is going on. You don’t need all the intelligence apparatus that modern states have to see something when it faces you right away. It, it’s facing you in–it’s staring us in the face, there’s no question about that.
MR. GREGORY: You know there’s been quite a debate here in the United States and really around the world about what President Obama should do and should say at a moment like this. He has said over the weekend that these are unjust actions, that the whole world is watching, that Iran should not violently crack down on its people. Has he said and done enough, do you think?
MR. NETANYAHU: I’m not going to second-guess the president of the United States. I know President Obama wants the people of Iran to be free. He said as much in his seminal speech in Cairo before the Muslim world. I’ve spoken to him a number of times on this subject, there’s no question we’d all like to see a different, a different Iran with different policies.
Remember, this is a regime that not only represses its own people–Sakharov said, Andrei Sakharov, the great Russian scientist and humanist, said that a regime that oppresses its own people sooner or later will oppress its neighbors. And certainly Iran has been doing that. It’s been calling for the, the denial of the Holocaust. It’s threatening to wipe Israel off the map. It’s pursuing nuclear weapons. To that effect it’s sponsoring terror against us, but throughout the world.
So I think what everybody would like to see is a change in policy, and the change of policy is both outside and inside.
MR. GREGORY: But does the United States have a unique role to play here in continuing to support this freedom movement, as you call it, in Iran; an obligation to support the protesters, to really give them moral support at the very least?
MR. NETANYAHU: I think it’s clear that the United States, the people of the United States, the president of the United States, free people everywhere, decent people everywhere are amazed at the, at the, at the desire of the people there to–and their willingness to stand up for their rights. I cannot, as I said, tell you what is going to happen. I’ll tell you what I would do, what we all would do in the face of demonstrations.
There is–as we speak, David, there’s a demonstration right now outside my window, outside my office. Well, democracies act differently. They don’t send armed agents of the regime to brutally mow down the demonstrators. I’ll tell you what I did. I called in these demonstrators, they happen to be representatives of a non-Jewish minority in Israel, the Druze community, they have certain, certain protests about the financing of their municipalities. I called their leaders in
MR. GREGORY: Hmm
MR. NETANYAHU: I talked to them. I said, “How can I help you?” That’s what democratic leaders do, that’s what democratic countries do.
MR. GREGORY: Let me, let…
MR. NETANYAHU: We’ve had thousands, hundreds of thousands demonstrate in Israel right and left, but that’s how we behave, that’s how you behave, and I have no doubt that everyone in the world is sympathetic to the desire of the Iranian people for freedom.