The current charm offensive by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has not had the same effect on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as it has on other world leaders.
While attending a gathering of world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Netanyahu insisted that the policies of the Islamic Republic have not changed, even if the head of state has, and any nation that alters its approach to Iran just because of Rouhani's smile is a fool.
Netanyahu went a step further, ordering Israeli diplomats to conspicuously exit the General Assembly hall when Rouhani took the podium.
But Rouhani was doing his best to make the Israeli leader look intransigent. In an interview with CNN, Rouhani appeared to finally acknowledge the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews as a historical event, a gesture his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, very notably refused to make.
However, Netanyahu cautioned that, much as North Korea did in recent years, Iran is now looking to ease international pressure over its defiant nuclear program by making cosmetic concessions. Meanwhile, Tehran continues to push forward toward acquiring an atomic bomb.
In his own address before the UN General Assembly, Rouhani repeated the claim that Iran is interested in nuclear power only for peaceful purposes, and that anything else would be "contrary to our religious beliefs." He went on to describe Iran as an anchor of peace and stability in the Middle East.
US President Barack Obama seemed to be taken in by Rouhani's demeanor, much to the chagrin of Israel. Speaking from the UN podium, Obama said the US was ready to reengage Iran, but that Rouhani must back up his words with actions. The American added that US diplomacy in the Middle East currently has two focal points, Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and the Israeli-Arab conflict, a coupling that makes Israel very uncomfortable.
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