Why Iranian Leader Hassan Rowhani May Not Be Ahmadinejad II

The Bogeyman Is Gone — Listen to New Voice in Tehran

Not Same Iran: Israel should listen to Hassan Rowhani before dismissing him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
getty images
Not Same Iran: Israel should listen to Hassan Rowhani before dismissing him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

By Trita Parsi

Published August 09, 2013, issue of August 16, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

While the rest of the world cautiously welcomed the surprise election of Hassan Rowhani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood virtually alone in swiftly dismissing the Iranian centrist as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And when Iranian news agencies misquoted Rowhani as calling Israel an “old wound” that must be removed, Netanyahu was quick to declare himself vindicated.

“This statement should awaken the world from the illusion some have taken to entertaining since the elections in Iran,” Netanyahu’s statement said. “The president was replaced but the goal of the regime remains obtaining nuclear weapons to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the safety of the world.”

When it later emerged that Rowhani had been misquoted by the Iranian media — he had called the occupation “a wound” and had made no reference at all to Israel, nor had he expressed any desire for it to be destroyed — Netanyahu at first refused to retract his statement, and later put the blame on the international news agencies for having disseminated the misquotation.

But the quick condemnation and the reluctant retraction revealed Netanyahu’s strong desire to see Rowhani for what he wants him to be — a continuation of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s radicalism that made the campaign to isolate Iran seem almost effortless — rather than the change Rowhani actually might represent.

But what change might Rowhani bring to Iran’s posture on Israel?

Let’s first determine what changes Rowhani — or anyone else, for that matter — likely cannot bring to the Islamic Republic’s policy toward Israel. As I describe in my 2007 book “Treacherous Alliance — The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S.,” Iran’s Israel policy is driven by both ideological and strategic concerns. On the strategic side, Iran has sought for decades to distance itself from Israel in order to avoid attracting Arab anger. Even the shah, who enjoyed very close security collaboration with the Jewish state, kept Israel at arm’s length in public.

Beyond the strategic concerns, the current regime in Iran also holds ideological animosity toward Israel, even though for the purposes of operational policy, the ideological factors are secondary.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.