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Ahead of US trip, Netanyahu accuses protesters of working with Iran and PLO

Prime minister's comments spark wave of condemnations by opposition and protest groups

Anti-judicial overhaul demonstrators protest against the Israeli government's judicial overhaul and against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, Sept. 17, 2023. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left early Monday morning for his trip to the United States, where he will meet with important leaders, from Elon Musk to President Joe Biden, as well as speak at the United Nations General Assembly.

Netanyahu, whose administration has been beset by protests from the beginning, was met by a group of protesters at the Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday morning.

Several protest groups from Israel have also planned demonstrations against Netanyahu in the U.S., beginning in San Francisco, where he will meet with Musk, the head of X, formerly Twitter.

On Sunday night, the High-Tech Protest group projected an anti-Netanyahu banner on one of the high-rise office buildings in San Francisco with the message, “Save our Startup Nation.”

When asked about protests awaiting him in the U.S., Netanyahu responded, “There have always been demonstrations in favor of Israel and against Israel. But this time we see demonstrations against Israel by people who are joining with the PLO, Iran and others.”

“Nothing is surprising anymore, but that will not prevent me from representing Israel brilliantly and in the best way for all its citizens,” Netanyahu stated.

While the question was not clearly delineated, as there are multiple groups protesting Netanyahu’s UN visit, the opposition and protest groups in Israel immediately assumed the prime minister was speaking against them and issued their own statements of condemnation.

National Unity party head Benny Gantz blasted Netanyahu for accusing the anti-government protesters of “colluding with our enemies.”

“Netanyahu's attack, while accusing the demonstrators in the United States of colluding with our enemies, is grave and deserves all condemnation. Even if one does not agree on the course of action, these are patriots, lovers of the country,” Gantz said.

“The enormous damage Netanyahu is causing to Israeli society by his conduct, even a thousand fiery speeches at the UN will not be repaired. It's time to stop the regime coup and put the government in order, instead of blaming the protesters.”

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman lashed out at Netanyahu.

“Mr. Prime Minister, once again you are brazenly lying. The demonstrators in Israel and around the world are demonstrating against you and for the State of Israel,” he said. “The one who joined Iran and the PLO is none other than you, you yourself, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu; you are the one who is dismantling Israeli society from within.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid party, also criticized the prime minister’s words.

“No one has destroyed our image in the world more than Netanyahu in recent months. Nothing helps the Iranians more than his government's regime revolution. His accusations against the patriots of the protest are yet another proof of a serious lapse in judgment and reading of reality.”

Protest group leaders also issued statements condemning Netanyahu.

Several hours after takeoff, when the reports of outrage began to be published in Israeli news sites, Netanyahu’s office issued a clarification, stating that the prime minister had been referring to Israeli citizens participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and pro-Palestinian protests outside the United Nations.

"When the Prime Minister said that the protesters are connected to the PLO and Iran, he was referring to the fact that while the Prime Minister of Israel was representing the State of Israel at the UN, they, Israeli citizens, would be demonstrating alongside PLO and BDS supporters - something that has never happened," according to the Prime Minister's Office.

"It is to be hoped that the Israeli demonstrators will take at least a few minutes to demonstrate against those who deny the State of Israel's right to exist."

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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