(JTA) — Responding to a speech by Iran’s president saying he wants to have good relations “with all countries we officially recognize,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran continues to deceive the West.
The statement made Thursday by President Hassan Rouhani at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, appeared to imply that Iran would continue to be in a state of conflict with Israel.
Rouhani also told the forum that Iran is committed to working for a final agreement with the Western powers on the country’s nuclear program, which the West said is working to achieve a nuclear weapon and which Iran says is peaceful.
But Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told CNN on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic did not agree to dismantle any part of its nuclear program in exchange for relaxed sanctions.
“The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments,” he said. “We did not agree to dismantle anything.”
Netanyahu was scheduled to speak later Thursday in Davos on the topics of Israel’s economy and its technological innovation.
“At a time when Rouhani talks about peace with the countries of the Middle East, he refuses — even today — to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, and his regime daily calls for the destruction of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said following the Irani leader’s speech.
“Rouhani has admitted that a decade ago he deceived the West in order to advance the Iranian nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. “He is doing this today as well.
“The goal of the Iranian ayatollahs’ regime, which is hiding behind Rouhani’s smiles, is to ease sanctions without conceding on their program to produce nuclear weapons. Therefore, the international community must not go astray after this deception, and it must prevent Iran from attaining the ability to produce nuclear weapons.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres criticized Rouhani’s remarks in a meeting with reporters in Davos.
“The most significant remarks were the ones he didn’t make — he didn’t express support for peace in the Middle East,” Peres said. “He is the only leader I know who didn’t say clearly the time has come to make peace between Israel and the Arabs.”
Peres added that Iran must “stop threatening and terrorizing, even while making speeches like this one.”