Israeli PM Expects No 'Genuine Change' in Iran

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Western countries they shouldn't be fooled by Iran's new president who many are calling a "moderate."

Iran's President-elect Hassan Rowhani won in a landslide. The 64-year-old successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is promising a revolution in the country's economy, culture, and politics.

"Regarding the Iranian elections, we in Israel have no illusions," Netanyahu said Sunday, stressing that Rowhani has limited powers.

"While the elections no doubt expressed a dissatisfaction of the Iranian people with their regime, I don't see it producing the genuine change in Iran's nuclear policy," he said.

The ultimate power in Iran, including its nuclear program, rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Before the election, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz told foreign journalists Iran's nuclear program is not about producing a nuclear bomb or two, but rather a nuclear arsenal.

"We are not speaking about the Iranian bomb," Steinitz said. "We are not speaking about having a few bombs in the shelter like North Korea. Once they will be there, they will produce dozens and later on, it will take some time maybe, hundreds of nuclear bombs."

Steinitz warned if Iran gets a nuclear bomb, it would be the first time in history a fanatic religious government possessed nuclear weapons.

"If the Iranians will gain nuclear weapons, this is going to change the course of global history," he predicted.

Rowhani once served as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. He hinted about his approach to Iran's nuclear program in 2004.

"While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [nuclear conversion] facility in Isfahan," Rowhani said. "By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work there." 

This method of gentle Iranian diplomacy on the surface while it races toward a nuclear arsenal behind the scenes is what alarms many Israelis.

Cliff May, with the Foundation of the Defense of Democracies, told CBN News Iran remains the number one enemy of the United States and Israel.

"Iran represents the most important strategic threat to the United States," May said. "That means Iran seeks to diminish the United States, to destroy its influence in the Middle East and its influence everywhere it can. But it's not a strategic threat but an existential threat to Israel."

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Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

In a time where the world's attention is riveted on events in the Middle East, CBN viewers have come to appreciate Chris Mitchell's timely reports from this explosive region of the world. Mitchell brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world.