Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday denounced the Iranian government's hostility to Israel, warning that a regime that crushes "the creative and competitive spirits of its people" and threatens to destroy the Jewish state is "doomed."
In a video statement posted to Twitter, Netanyahu recalled the story of an Iranian wrestler named Alireza Karimi-Machiani, 23, whose coach told him last week to throw his match in the U23 World Senior Wrestling Championship to avoid facing an Israeli opponent in the next round. Karimi-Machiani, who was easily defeating his Russian opponent, at first continued to compete for the win until his coach shouted again for him to "lose," at which point he intentionally lost.
Iranian athletes are forbidden from facing Israelis in any sports competition, and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, often refers to Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognize as a state, as a "cancerous tumor."
"I never imagined I'd say this, but I think Iran's hostility to Israel can be summed up by the experience of a single Iranian wrestler named Alireza," Netanyahu said, noting that Karimi-Machiani indicated he did not want to lose and had dreams of winning a gold medal.
"It's the people of Iran who pay the price" for the regime's anti-Israel ideology, Netanyahu added.
"Just imagine, a government forbidding its athletes from competing against blacks, gays, or Arabs," Netanyahu said. "The Iranian regime would rather see its athletes lose than compete against Israelis."
Netanyahu then issued a challenge to those viewing the video, saying it will "honor and inspire future Alirezas."
"I want you to film yourself playing a sport against someone of a different nationality, a different faith, or a different color. I want you to compete like hell—we're all for competition," Netanyahu said. "Then I want you to shake hands, go out for a drink together, and then upload this to social media. I want you to show Iran's regime that hating others will never make you a champion. It only makes you a pathetic and insecure loser."
Netanyahu then issued a message to Karimi-Machiani directly.
"Alireza, I want you to know that the tyrants who made you take a fall—will fall themselves," Netanyahu said. "A regime that crushes the creative and competitive spirits of its people—that regime is doomed."
"So are those who threaten to destroy the Jewish state," Netanyahu added. "They'll go down for the count."