Daily Israel Report

Iran Rejects Israeli President's Offer to Meet Rouhani

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman reiterates her country will never recognize the Jewish state.
By Ari Soffer and AFP
First Publish: 12/10/2013, 3:54 PM

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
AFP photo

Iran on Tuesday dismissed an offer from Israel's president to meet his Iranian counterpart as a "propaganda ploy", and reaffirmed its opposition to the Jewish state's existence.   

"This propaganda to help the regime out of isolation will prove fruitless," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters.    

She said President Shimon Peres's offer was aimed at helping Israel out of what she described as its "isolation", after its outspoken opposition to the nuclear deal clinched last month in Geneva.    

Asked on Sunday about a possible meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Peres said: "Why not? I don't have enemies. It's not a question of personalities but of policies."    

"The aim is to transform enemies into friends," said the president, whose role in Israel is symbolic and ceremonial.    

But in contrast to Peres' conciliatory approach, the Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman rejected the possibility of a meeting outright, insisting that her country would never recognize the Jewish state or change its stand.    

"There has not been nor will there be any change on Iran's stance and views regarding the Zionist regime", Afkham said. "Iran does not recognize Israel. Our position regarding this oppressive and occupationist regime - which is completely illegitimate and has been created to occupy the lands of the Palestinians - is clear," she added.    

The harsh rhetoric is likely to reinforce the skepticism towards which the Israeli public views western statements that the government of current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani represents a new, "moderate" phase in Iranian policy.

In October Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu famously compared Rouhani to his predecessor, asserting that "Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing. And Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing. But it doesn't mean we should let him... pull the wool over our eyes".

Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, accuses Iran of working to develop a nuclear bomb, a charge denied by the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has a long history of belligerent statements towards Israel and supports a wide range of anti-Israel terrorist groups committed to the Jewish state's destruction, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.