Although Iran has elected Hassan Rouhani to be the next Iranian President, Iran still remains a threat to Israel via its nuclear program and support for terror.
The controversial Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and called for Israel to be wiped off the map as of next August will no longer be the Iranian President. Hassan Rouhani has recently won the 2013 Iranian elections presidential elections. The question arises, how does this change of power effect the State of Israel?
Although Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei still has ultimate authority when it comes to Iran’s foreign relations, the Iranian President nevertheless does hold significant power influencing decision-making and running the executive branch of the Iranian government. The change of leadership in Iran could provide momentum for less confrontational relations between Iran and the west, in addition to permitting more freedom within Iran itself.
Iranians voted for Hassan Rouhani because they believe that the internal human rights situation will improve under a non-hardliner and also think that a less confrontational leader will ease the horrible economic situation within Iran. Nevertheless, in a political system where non-Islamists are barred from running for office, Rouhani does support the present rule of the mullahs in Iran. Even though his domestic policies are more liberal, his foreign policy ideas parallel those of Ahmadinejad. Rouhani told the Arabic daily Al Sharq Al Aswat that the campaign against Iran “is being fueled and directed first and foremost by Israel, in order to divert international attention not only from its own clandestine and dangerous nuclear weapons program but also from its destabilizing and inhuman policies and practices in Palestine and the Middle East.” He has praised Assad’s regime as the “only country in the region to resist Israeli expansionist policies and practices,” reaffirmed Iranian support for the Palestinian cause, and he believes that Iran has the right to have a nuclear program.
THE IMPLICATIONS FOR ISRAEL
According an Iranian UWI source who is a supporter of the Iranian opposition named Pedram, even though Rouhani believes Iran has the right to nuclear weapons, he is more likely than Ahmadinejad was to reach an accommodation with the west, provided Ayatollah Khameini will permit him. Pedram emphasized that Ayatollah Khameini gives Islamist reformers limited wiggle-room. Under Rouhani’s leadership, denying the Holocaust is likely to cease being a prominent aspect of Iranian presidential speeches. Regardless, Israel can expect that Rouhani will make anti-Israel statements, just like his predecessor did and the initiation of Iranian-Israeli diplomatic relations is not on the table. Also, neither the Iranian governmental support for Assad’s regime nor Palestinian terror groups nor Iran’s nuclear program is likely to wane under Rouhani, unless the Iranian government continues to be under pressure and gives in for pragmatic reasons.
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About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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