The attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pre-empt any possible discussions — let alone negotiations — with the US administration, described the newly elected president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” While it is recognized throughout the world that the elections were free in Iran, conservative candidates were defeated, he was backed by a proven liberal reformist. former President Mohammad Khatami, and has made clear in the aftermath of his election that he is committed to reforms which his country requires, and a much more open polivy in international and regional relations.
For Israel to dismiss outright the signals that Rouhani has articulated and emphasized strongly is an arrogant position, which seeks to close even conversations about the possibilities of a new era in Iran. While the world community might hesitate to respond instantly and positively to Rouhani’s approach, it is, however, inclined to learn more and to test the credibility of Rouhani’s declared commitments. These commitments appear to give a chance for Iran to contribute to internal liberal reforms and to regional stability.
For Israel at this moment to assert and affirm its doubt about any change is indicative of its agenda and its style: that it can dictate policies, interrupt discussions, and possibly negotiations especially by the US administration.
To describe the outcome of these emerging policies declared by Rouhani as inconsequential indicates that Netanyahu’s government seeks to derail the opportunity for the world community to probe and discover the authenticity of Rouhani’s statements concerning internal and international policy. I hope that this opportunity for dialogue remains wide open.
Clovis Maksoud is a former ambassador and permanent observer of the League of Arab States at the United Nations and its chief representative in the United States for more than 10 years.