Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani took only one stab at Israel during an
hour-long press conference Monday, where he held out the prospect of better ties
with the West but gave no indication he would stop Iran’s relentless nuclear
Rohani, now widely touted in the Western media as a “moderate
cleric,” said the sanctions against his country were “brutal” and that the
Iranian people did “nothing wrong to deserve them.”
Saying that the West
understood that the sanctions hurt them as well, Rohani said Israel was the only
party benefiting from these steps. But in a break from outgoing President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rohani uttered the world “Israel” and did not refer to it
as the “Zionist entity.”
Asked by a French reporter point-blank whether
he was going to stop uranium enrichment, a critical Israeli demand, Rohani said
“that time has passed.”
The Iranian leader, who asserted that he hoped to
build the trust of the international community, said “we have many ways for
building confidence other than suspending enrichment.”
Binyamin Netanyahu, in a short interview with Reuters at about the same time as
the press conference, said Israel’s red line on Iran has not changed with
“Neither has the Iranian pursuit of approaching it
gradually with running out the clock, buying time, putting up a hospitable face.
These are all tactics. Again and again and again,” he said.
Israeli officials have
said that red line, the one that Netanyahu drew on a cartoon picture of a bomb
at the UN last September, is 250 kilos of uranium enriched to 20
Netanyahu repeated his position that Iran’s election exposed
popular discontent with the Tehran government but was unlikely to bring about
any change in the country’s nuclear policy.
Acknowledging that economic
sanctions were clearly taking their toll on Iran, Netanyahu said the pressure
needed to be maintained and urged Western allies not to pin their hopes on
“He doesn’t count. He doesn’t call the shots,” Netanyahu said,
adding that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made all the
decisions regarding nuclear policy.
“The Iranian election clearly
reflects deep disaffection of the Iranian people with its regime, but
unfortunately it doesn’t have the power to change Iran’s nuclear
According to Netanyahu, the world’s sanctions were
responsible for the Iranian election results.
“These sanctions actually
produced the change we have seen today,” he said.
“They did not work
They produced some change in Iran, but they have not
yet produced the change that we need to see,” he added. “So stay firm with the
demands and firm with the sanctions.”
Rohani, at his press conference,
said his new government, to be formed after his inauguration in August, would
“revive ethics and constructive interaction with the world through
He defined moderation as “collective reasoning,” “avoiding
extremes,” and “cost-benefit analysis.”
“I hope that all countries use
this opportunity,” he said.
Asked if he would be prepared to hold direct
talks with the United States, Rohani replied: “The issue of relations between
Iran and America is a complicated and difficult issue.”
“It is an old
wound that needs to be... healed,” he said, setting three conditions for direct
“First of all, the Americans have to say... that they will never
interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. Second, they have to recognize all of the
Iranian nation’s due rights including nuclear rights. And third, they have to
put aside oppressive... policies towards Iran,” he said.
He added there
needed to be an end to American “bullying.”
The White House said on
Sunday the election of Rohani was a “potentially hopeful sign” if he lived up to
what it said were his promises to “come clean” over the nuclear
Iran’s nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, Rohani pledged
greater Iranian transparency on its nuclear program but did not say whether this
would include International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision of the
military installation at Parchin, something the UN nuclear watchdog agency has
“Our nuclear programs are completely transparent. But we
are ready to show greater transparency and make clear for the whole world that
the steps of the Islamic Republic of Iran are completely within international
frameworks,” he said.
Asked about Syria, Rohani said to applause that the
civil war would be resolved “with the vote of the people of
Although Iran is deeply involved in the conflict there, Rohani
said the “interference of foreigners must end.”
He also sent a
conciliatory message to the Sunni world, especially the Persian Gulf countries,
saying he wanted friendly relations with Iran’s 15 neighboring countries, and
called arch foe Saudi Arabia Iran’s “neighbor and brothers.”
conference, which was streamed live over the Internet, ended when one man
shouted a slogan in favor of reformist Mirhossein Mousavi, held under house
arrest since 2011.
Mousavi ran for president in 2009 and led the “Green
Movement” of mass demonstrations contesting his defeat, which became the biggest
challenge to Iran’s ruling system since its founding in the 1979
“Rohani remember, Mirhossein must be [present],” the man
shouted live on state television.
Rohani left the dais, and state
television cut to scenes of people voting and music. •
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!