For Netanyahu, such sentiments are nothing short of a nightmare.
For years, he has warned that Iran is steadily marching toward development of nuclear weapons, an assessment that is widely shared by the West because of Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium and its run-ins with international nuclear inspectors.
The Israeli prime minister contends Rouhani’s outreach is a ploy to ease international sanctions and buy time. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran an unacceptable threat, given repeated Iranian assertions that the Jewish state should not exist. Israel has a long list of other grievances against Iran, citing its support for hostile Arab militant groups, its development of long-range missiles and alleged Iranian involvement in attacks on Israeli targets in Europe and Asia.
On Sunday, Israel announced the arrest of a Belgian-Iranian businessman on espionage charges.
Netanyahu says the new Iranian leader must be judged on his actions, not his words. In the meantime, he says sanctions and other international pressure, including the threat of military action, must be increased.
He has likened Iran to North Korea, which used the guise of international negotiations to secretly develop a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu appears to enjoy widespread domestic support for his tough approach. Israel’s Channel 10 TV released the results of a poll Sunday night showing that 78 percent of respondents don’t believe Iran wants to resolve the nuclear problem. Fifty-nine percent said they do not think the U.S. will reach an agreement with Iran, while just 29 percent said they expect a resolution. The station did not say how many were questioned or provide a margin of error.
Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. who now serves as an adviser to Netanyahu, said the prime minister would present Obama with “some very hard facts” based on intelligence showing that Iranian behavior has not changed.