Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s attempts to foster better ties with the West are only a deception, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, trying to put a damper on a seemingly moderate speech by the Iranian leader at the World Economic Forum earlier in the day.
Netanyahu, who is also at the summit in Davos, Switzerland, gave his own address on Thursday afternoon.
In an immediate response to Rouhani’s speech, Netanyahu said that the Iranian president was continuing “Iran’s deception show” and that the international community “must not be fooled and must prevent Iran from attaining the capability to produce nuclear weapons.”
“At a time when Rouhani talks about peace with the countries of the Middle East, he refuses – even today – to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, and his regime daily calls for the destruction of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “At a time when Rouhani claims that Iran is not interested in a nuclear project for military purposes, Iran continues to strengthen its centrifuges and heavy water reactor, and to arm itself with intercontinental missiles, the sole purpose of which is for nuclear weapons.”
Rouhani, in his address, said Iran’s nuclear program was peaceful, denied any nuclear weapons goals, and said that his country was ready to engage in diplomatic relations with all countries it had officially recognized.
President Shimon Peres, who joined Netanyahu and the Israeli delegation in Davos, noted that Rouhani was more interesting for what he didn’t say than what he did.
“The most significant remarks were the ones he didn’t make – he didn’t express support for peace in the Middle East,” Peres said at a press conference. “He is the only leader I know who didn’t say clearly the time has come to make peace between Israel and the Arabs. He excluded the reference to peace and when he was asked if his vision included all countries he said it included only the ones that Iran will accept.”
Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren also rejected Rouhani’s claim that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons.
“We are talking about a country that systematically lied [about its nuclear program] for years, even during negotiations,” Oren said in an interview with Israel Radio.
Oren also scoffed at Rouhani’s moderate posturing regarding regional conflicts, and in particular the Iranian leader’s claim that his country does not take aggressive military action.
“Everyone knows Iran is involved in international terror,” Oren said. “They are involved in every conflict in the region.”
However, Oren speculated that world leaders will not be taken in by Rouhani’s pacific rhetoric.
“They know that Iran is still a threat to the whole world, not just Israel,” he said.