Israeli President Shimon Peres applauded Iran's pro-reform protesters on Sunday, saying the young should "raise their voice for freedom" _ an explicit message of support from a country that sees itself as most endangered by the hard-line government in Tehran.
Peres, a Nobel peace prize laureate whose duties are largely ceremonial, suggested the protesters could bring down their leaders. Protesters took to the streets after a disputed June 12 presidential election that saw a victory for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction.
"Let the young people raise their voice for freedom, let the Iranian women ... voice their thirst for equality," Peres told a gathering of world Jewish leaders.
If the protests continue, Peres said, "hopefully the poor government will disappear."
Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons that could target Israel _ a charge Iran denies. The Israeli government says it prefers to see Iran's nuclear program stopped through diplomacy, but has not ruled out a military strike.
Israel is also concerned about Iran's close support for two of its most committed enemies, Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials have said little so far about the Iranian protest movement, which has topped news broadcasts here since demonstrations erupted more than a week ago. Initially, officials here indicated they saw little difference between Ahmadinejad and his rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who asserts he won the election. Ahmadinejad has made verbal assaults on Israel a centerpiece of his rhetoric and has also called the Holocaust a "myth."