While the account handlers quietly deleted the original tweet thread and reposted the remarks with a different translation, critics were quick to point out that the Hebrew words Netanyahu used can only mean one thing.
While at a Middle East conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Wednesday, Netanyahu gave reporters comments in Hebrew following a meeting with Oman's foreign minister. However, when his office's Twitter account posted an English translation of his statement, it contained some shockingly frank discussion of "war with Iran."
"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 war with Iran," the Tweet read.
However, this tweet was soon removed, and a new translation was put up, 52 minutes after the first post, that substituted the phrase "combating Iran" for "war with Iran."
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.— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 13, 2019
Several news agencies sent inquiries to the Israeli leader's office asking for clarification of his comments, but none received a reply. The PM of Israel account hasn't issued a retraction or a correction of any kind, just a replacement of one tweet with another.
Many reporters quickly put things together and decided it must have been a simple translation error. Those happen all the time, right? Big oops!
Netanyahu’s team translated a Hebrew phrase you’d normally render as “combatting Iran” as “war with Iran,” thus setting a new bar for initiating an international crisis with bad tweets. https://t.co/BZSKKUJysu— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 13, 2019
However, while mistranslating a word might be a common error, even if letting it get through to the press in such an egregious way isn't, critics were quick to point out that in the original Hebrew, Netanyahu did, indeed, say the word "war."
What are you talking about? מלחמה באיראן directly translates to War in Iran.— Higher Order Truths about Bumpus Jones (@qunzhong_luxian) February 13, 2019
Nah Matt Yglesias made that up. The original tweet is still out there in Hebrew and you can view it here. It translates to war in Iran. https://t.co/vs9X1eJT8R— Higher Order Truths about Bumpus Jones (@qunzhong_luxian) February 13, 2019
Here's a screenshot of the PM's comments in Hebrew, to verify directly:
On Tuesday, Sputnik spoke with Peter Ford, the former British ambassador to Syria, about Israeli shelling of an abandoned city in southern Syria the previous day, as well as bombastic comments made by Netanyahu following inquiries about them.
"We are in a pre-election period in Israel," the diplomat noted. "This sounds like Netanyahu flexing his muscles, showing that he's the best military leader… He's brushing up his military credentials, trying to ramp up the crisis atmosphere in which he tends to flourish, ramping up the Iran threat."
"I don't think the Iranians and their allies, like Hezbollah, will be stupid enough to play into Netanyahu's game by overreacting," Ford continued.
Netanyahu faces a serious military leader in April's Knesset elections: Benjamin Gantz, the former of chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, who's founded a new party, Israel Resilience.
We aren't sure what happened here. A simple mistake badly handled? A slip of the tongue that shouldn't have gotten out? Simple posturing by Netanyahu during an election cycle?