Israel has no problem with the people of Iran, only with the “extremist Ayatollah leadership and several Western cynics,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday in a meeting with Italy’s prime minister.

Meeting Mario Monti in Jerusalem, Lieberman said Iran is “sending a message of violence and disregard for the accepted norms of the civilized world.”

He cited the violent takeover of the British Embassy in Tehran last November, the alleged attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in October, and Iran’s continued support of the Syrian regime. Lieberman noted that Iran had hosted a conference denying the Holocaust, and that the Iranian president has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel.

The foreign minister’s reference to “Western cynics” was a clear reference to the German writer and Nobel laureate Gunter Grass, who caused an uproar last week by publishing a poem in which he chastised Israel for “threatening world peace” and seeking to “annihilate” the Iranian nation. The poem drew sharp criticism in Israel and Germany, with many critics noting Grass’ service in the SS at the end of WWII.

In the poem, the 84-year-old author asserted that Israel, and not Iran, was threatening world peace with its nuclear program.

Lieberman told Monti that “in order to get publicity and sell a few books, [Grass] is willing to once again sacrifice the Jews.”

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report