Iranian incoming President Hasan Rouhani “has revealed his true face sooner than expected,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, in response to the Iranian leader’s comments earlier that Israel was an “old wound” that occupied Arab land.
Rouhani spoke in Tehran Friday — just two days ahead of his inauguration — after attending International Quds Day events in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency initially quoted Rouhani as saying: “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.” Later, it said Rouhani had not used the phrase “should be removed.”
“Even if others hasten to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime,” said Netanyahu, adding, “his statements should shake the world from the reverie some have found themselves in since the [June 14 presidential] elections. There’s a new president, but the intentions of Iran remain the same — to obtain nuclear weapons that will threaten Israel, the Middle East and the peace and security of the entire world.
“A country that threatens another country with annihilation cannot be allowed to obtain weapons of mass destruction,” concluded the prime minister.
Rouhani won a landslide victory in Iran’s presidential election and has pledged to follow a “path of moderation,” promising greater openness over Iran’s nuclear program, which has placed it at odds with the West.
Netanyahu has consistently warned that the new Iranian president was merely putting on a “more hospitable face,” and that he has no power or intention to change the Iranian regime’s nuclear policy. Last month, he called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
On Thursday, the prime minister praised the US decision to level new sanctions against Iran.
“Following the Iranian elections, the House of Representatives has sent a clear message to the Iranian regime that international pressure will increase until Iran meets its obligations and ceases its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We will judge Iran by its actions alone.”
On Sunday, Netanyahu charged that Iran was going ahead with its nuclear program: “A month has passed since the elections in Iran, and Iran is going full steam ahead on developing nuclear weapons. Now, more than ever, given Iran’s progress, it’s crucial to strengthen economic sanctions against Iran and to provide a credible military option.”