Two days after President Shimon Peres expressed his willingness to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Tehran rebuffed the suggestion as a ploy by Jerusalem to improve its international standing.
“This propaganda to help the regime out of isolation will prove fruitless,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, according to AFP.
“Iran does not recognize Israel. Our position regarding this oppressive and occupationist regime — which is completely illegitimate and has been created to occupy the lands of the Palestinians — is clear,” she added.
On Sunday, Peres told a Tel Aviv conference that he would have no problem meeting Hassan Rouhani, who has been less confrontational in his first six months in office than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“I don’t have enemies,” he said. “We don’t consider Iran as an enemy.”
Israel has led the international charge for harsh sanctions and a threat of military action on Iran as a method to push it away from its nuclear program, which is widely believed to be military in nature.
After a deal was signed in November between Iran and six world powers easing sanctions in exchange for curbs on enrichment, Tehran boasted that Israel, which opposed the deal, had become a pariah in its stead.
Though supreme leader Ali Khamenei has maintained harsh rhetoric against Israel, recently referring to Zionists as “rabid dogs,” Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have mostly steered away from calling for Israel’s destruction, as part of a wider rapprochement with the West.
However, Afkham said Tuesday that Tehran’s position toward “the Zionist regime” had not changed and would not change.
While Peres has pushed a conciliatory tone with Iran, insisting that Israel is at odds with the regime and not the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained his campaign for the world to not be taken in by Rouhani’s charms, calling him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” at the United Nations General Assembly in October.
Even as the West has seemingly accepted legitimizing some ongoing Iranian uranium enrichment and has begun to open diplomatic doors with Iran, Israel has continued to lobby for the country, which also sponsors Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, to be internationally sanctioned.
On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told a group of high school students that Iran threatens not only Israel, but the whole world.
“It’s Iran against Western culture,” he said, according to a statement released by his bureau. “We didn’t want to put ourselves out there, but we were forced to bring the issue up in a harsh manner because we saw that world leaders, including in the US, were sweeping it under the rug.”
Ya’alon also called parts of the recent nuclear deal “very problematic,” and said Israel would continue to act to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
On Monday, Ya’alon said Iran had set up a terror network in South America with the goal of carrying out an attack on the US.