Iranian leader's smooth diplomacy poses new challenge for Israel

Iranian leader
# 25 September 2013 17:17 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. A charm offensive toward the West by Iran's new president and his nuanced approach to his predecessor's Holocaust denial have run into an Israeli wall of suspicion hardened by Tehran's nuclear pursuits, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, will not be fooled by Hassan Rouhani's international outreach and the world must not be either.

So when Netanyahu arrives in the United States next week, he will be on what aides describe as a mission to unmask Iran's new administration, in which the West sees a potentially promising partner for negotiations to stop what it fears is a drive to develop atomic weapons.

"We've anticipated ever since Rouhani's election that there would be American dialogue with Iran," a senior Israeli official taking part in the annual U.N. forum told Reuters.

"Our goal is to ensure that these talks, if they happen, are matched with action, and soon. The Iranians are smiling, but they're still cheating, and that has to be exposed."

Iran says is nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, demands a total rollback of Iran's nuclear projects, including uranium enrichment and plutonium production that could arm a bomb.

At White House talks with President Barack Obama on Monday, and in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York a day later, Netanyahu will point to what he sees as Iranian duplicity aimed at eluding foreign sanctions while entering the final stretch toward nuclear weapons.

In the words of Israel's Channel Two television, the right-wing Israeli leader will assume the unenviable role of "party pooper" in trying to dampen any Western expectations of a breakthrough in the nuclear crisis.

At his U.N. debut on Tuesday - boycotted by the Israeli delegation to the General Assembly - Rouhani pledged Iran's willingness to engage immediately in "time-bound" talks on the nuclear issue. He offered, however, no new concessions.

Staying away from the speech, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, only played into Iranian hands.

"We have to let the Iranians be the ones refusing peace and not appear as if we are not open to changes," Lapid said in a statement, signaling a measure of domestic dissent that presented another challenge to Netanyahu.

And with Rouhani's hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - a lightning rod for Israeli and Western criticism - no longer on the world stage, Israel is now forced to dig deeper between the lines of Iranian rhetoric to try to show Iranian intransigence.