Iran’s “moderate” President-elect thinks that the idea of Israel attacking his country is a funny one.
In a speech he made this past Monday, Hassan Rouhani grinned widely in response to the possibility of an Israeli attack against the country's nuclear facilities, reported the Israel Hayom daily newspaper.
"There has been a lot of talk that this option is on the table," said Rouhani, referring to Israel's veiled threats.
"You laugh when you hear them," the Iranian president told veterans of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. "Who are the Zionists to threaten us?"
The election of Rouhani, who is considered relatively moderate compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, led to hopes among some in the West of possible progress toward resolving the decade-old nuclear dispute.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however, has warned the world not to be distracted by crises in Syria and Egypt.
Netanyahu said this week that Iran is moving "closer and closer" to building a nuclear weapon and Israel may have to act before the United States does.
"They're edging up to the red line. They haven't crossed it yet," Netanyahu said on CBS News's "Face the Nation."
"They're getting closer and closer to the bomb. And they have to be told in no uncertain terms that that will not be allowed to happen," he added.
Rouhani, who takes office next month, has indicated he would like a less confrontational approach to nuclear talks with six world powers than Ahmadinejad, who also publicly called for Israel to be wiped off the map and denied that the Holocaust occurred.
At the same time he stressed soon after his election that Tehran would not consider halting the country’s uranium enrichment activities entirely.
Rouhani insisted that Iran’s nuclear activities are “within the framework of law,” and dubbed the international sanctions “baseless.”
Earlier this week, Rouhani sent messages to Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and Hizbullah reaffirming his support for the two allies, as well as his support of confrontation with Israel.
Iranian-Syrian ties will be able to confront “enemies in the region, especially the Zionist regime,” Rouhani said, adding that, Syria will “overcome its current crisis.”