Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel's Netanyahu Cautions against Seeing Big Change in Iran

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel's Netanyahu Cautions against Seeing Big Change in Iran

Article excerpt

For years, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad spooked Israelis with talk of wiping the Jewish state off the map. But the victory of Hassan Rohani, known as a moderate, could pose an even bigger challenge for Israel, analysts say.

The shift from the incendiary Mr. Ahmedinejad to a president who advocates "constructive engagement" with the West over Iran's nuclear program will require Israel to adjust its public posture toward Iran, say analysts.

Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the elections heralded little change and that Iran's nuclear program is the top threat to world peace, the ascendance of Mr. Rohani could turn the tables in the mind of the international community.

"Israel has lost an asset in Iran. That asset was Ahmedinejad. With his belligerent talk, he did the work for Israel by creating international consensus against Iran's nuclear program," says Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, a college in a Tel Aviv suburb. "Now we have the anti-Ahmedinejad as a president: Someone who is moderate and talks about rapprochement. That means there is a change in Iran and it is probably going require a change in Israel regarding its narrative toward Iran."

The moderate image of the new Iranian president could recast Mr. Netanyahu - who repeatedly reminds the international community that Israel is ready to use force if necessary against Tehran's nuclear program - as the leading proponent of armed conflict, the analyst said.

Speaking to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday morning, Netanyahu said that only heightened pressure and the threat of military action would deter Iran.

"Let us not delude ourselves. The international community must not become caught up in wishful thinking," said Prime Minister Netanyahu, who insisted that the Iranian regime still considers Israel a "Zionist Satan. …

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