Rouhani Charm Offensive in Davos Doesn’t Charm Israelis

YERUSHALAYIM -

Whatever plans Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may have had of avoiding political issues at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week were discarded on Thursday, as he denounced Iran’s nuclear program and that country’s involvement with global terror.

Earlier in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had called for improved relations with the West. But Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were determined to let the world know what they thought of the Iranian leader’s latest charm offensive.

Netanyahu on Thursday said that preventing a future Palestinian state from becoming an Iranian proxy was a major goal of his administration.

“Half of Palestinian society is dominated by Iran’s proxy,” he said in an apparent reference to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

During a question-and-answer session, he depicted Tehran as a common enemy of Israel and Arab states: “Central Arab governments are preoccupied with the Iranian nuclear weapons and the Muslim brotherhood,” he said.

“The nations do not see Israel as an enemy but as a potential ally to combat these threats. They are not assured by the words spoken  earlier by the president of Iran. They get it. We all wish there was a real change in Iran.”

Peres observed that Rouhani’s speech was more interesting for what it omitted.

“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. … and when he was asked if his vision included all countries he said it included only the ones that Iran will accept.”

President Peres added, “He didn’t announce that in order to reduce the bloodshed in Syria he’s going to stop sending arms and money to Hizbullah to stop the killing; he could have announced that seeing as he doesn’t want a nuclear bomb that he will stop building long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads; he didn’t announce that Iran will stop being the center of terror in our time. We can see their fingers in many terrible pies that endanger lives. As far as Israel is concerned, we are ready to make peace with the Iranian people; historically they have never been our enemies. We extend our hand for peace, including to the Iranian people, but today was a great occasion that was missed.”

Former ambassador to the U.S. 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 expressed confidence that world leaders will not be deceived by Rouhani’s peace rhetoric. “They know that Iran is still a threat to the whole world, not just Israel,” he said.