Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rouhani was believed to have provoked Israel during a Palestinian holiday festival. Rouhani was misquoted as saying, “the Zionist regime is a sore which must be removed.” The statement caused an international stir and was the first test of the new leader.
It was no surprise to most having endured more critical slanders by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One of his notable comments was that Israel was a cancerous tumor, a virus and an aberration that should be expunged from history. However, Rouhani’s actual comments were, “a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years.”
The comment made during Al Quds Day was misquoted by many Iranian news agencies and retractions soon were issued after international complaints. Al Quds Day, a reference to the Arabic name for Jerusalem. Iranians march during the holiday and shout “death to Israel.”
Iran’s president-elect comments provoked Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to respond in kind. He described Rouhani as a wolf in sheep’s clothing despite his attempt to portray himself as a moderate. Netanyahu believes that Rouhani’s regime will do little to change current policy.
“The president there has changed, but the goal of the regime has not: to achieve nuclear weapons in order to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the peace and security of the entire world. A country that threatens the destruction of the state of Israel must not be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction,” said Netanyahu.
Netanyahu was unmoved when it was discovered that the Iranian president-elects comments were misquoted. “We stand by what we say,” said Mark Regev, spokesman of Netanyahu. “The remarks attributed to him we think, we are sure, that represents his true outlook.”
“The Iranians have the ability to move things,” he said. “We know there’s a consistent pattern of Iranian behavior of saying things and then backtracking. The Iranians have ways inside Iran to censor their message. The have the ability to control their press,” said Regev.
“When it comes to discussion of Israel, Iranian moderates are damned if they do, damned if they don’t, said Mohammad Ali Shabani, a political analyst and a contributing editor to the Institute for Strategic Research Journals, a government-supported group in Tehran. “Harsh words put them in a tight spot abroad, while light criticism does the same at home. It’s really hard to maneuver around this subject.”
Iran’s president-elect comments which provoked Israel doesn’t come as a surprise to most. With the new leadership regime change little is expected of Iran and Hassan Rouhani.
By Thomas Barr