At a time when relations between the US and Iran seem to be thawing, American President Barack Obama’s decision to take “no options off the table” to ensure that Iran does not build nuclear weapons, did not sit well with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At the U.N. last week, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani delivered a conciliatory speech in which he said his country had no intention of building a nuclear weapon. He even declared his willingness for fresh negotiations with world powers.
Nentanyahu views Iran’s diplomacy as hypocritical and even went as far as calling Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
Important to note is the call President Obama made to the president of Iran, the first direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries since 1979.
The Iran-US-Israel scenario has always been a precarious one, Iran’s hard-line stance on many issues, including foreign policy and nuclear proliferation, led the country to remain at odds with the West, and the US in particular. Even though Obama was not overwhelmed by the softening stance of Iran, and assured Netanyahu that the U.S. is entering nuclear negotiations with Iran from a “very clear-eyed” perspective, the Israeli PM still feels threatened.
“Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction,” says Netanyahu.
He seems so obsessed with Iran that he focused entirely on the country during his speech at the UN on Tuesday which lasted over 30 minutes. It was only during the concluding part that he mentioned relations with Palestine, saying he was ready to seek an historic compromise, provided that Israel’s security concerns were addressed.
There are those, of course, who agree with Netanyahu. Middle East expert and former security advisor to President George W. Bush, Michael Doran says, "I think there's clearly something going on in Iran. We're seeing a desire for negotiation pretty much unlike anything we've ever seen before. And it looks like there's a split in the Iranian elite about the approach to have with the Americans. But I am a bit pessimistic that we're going to get satisfaction."
While it is unlikely that US-Iran relations will ever become intimate, even the slight softening of attitudes has caused a great deal of discomfort for Israel.
Furthermore, Israel does not seem to fancy it’s new role of a distant bystander while Iran and the Western world move on to talks and progressing relations.
Jonathan Marcus aptly describes Netanyahu as “a travelling salesman whose wares have lost their appeal; a man whose warnings against Iranian perfidy seem out of tune with the moment.”