MK Avigdor Liberman, the head of the Knesset’s influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, on Monday joined other senior Israeli officials in challenging the West’s optimism over the election of the ostensibly moderate Hasan Rowhani to the Iranian presidency.
Iran’s president-elect is “not more moderate, but more sophisticated,” said Liberman, the head of the Yisrael Beytenu party and former foreign minister who is slated to retake Israel’s top diplomatic post if he is acquitted of wrongdoing in his ongoing corruption trial.
Echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday emphasized that the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and not the president — determined Tehran’s nuclear policy, Liberman said, “There are real centers of power in Iran… Khamenei himself and of course the Revolutionary Guards. The institution of the president, like their parliament, is extremely limited,” focusing solely on internal, economic issues.
“We have not heard from [Rowhani] any announcements that he plans to stop the nuclear program… that he will not interfere in the fighting in Syria. We haven’t heard him say that in spite of the difficult economic situation in Iran that he will stop providing financial aid to Hezbollah and [Islamic] Jihad,” Liberman added.
Still, the former foreign minister refused to criticize President Shimon Peres’s cautious praise of the election results, and himself gave “great credit” to the Iranian voters. He said that it was very clear within Israeli governmental circles that “the [Iranian] public was ripe for political changes” and wished to distance itself from the current leadership.
However, despite the Iranian public’s desire for change, Liberman added, “Will it in fact move in that direction? I’m not sure.”