The Washington Post

Israel to boycott Iran’s U.N. speech, signaling deep skepticism of Rouhani

Iran's new President Hasan Rouhani, waves after his swearing in at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Israel's representatives at the United Nations plan to walk out from Tuesday afternoon's address by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The diplomatic boycott is a show of Israel's deep skepticism about Rouhani, whose entreaties for detente with the West they see as a ploy to buy time for further nuclear development.

The walk-out drew criticism from one high-level Israeli official, who compared it to Arab boycotts of Israeli U.N. addresses. Finance Minister Yair Lapid, a rising star in Israeli politics, called the move a mistake. "Israel shouldn't be portrayed as a serial objector to negotiations uninterested in peaceful solutions," he said. "We must make the Iranians be peace objectors. Leaving the U.N. Assembly is reminiscent of the ways Arab states behaved towards Israel."

Since taking office in early August, Rouhani has sent repeated signals that he wishes to engage with the West and soften the hard-line rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, including against Israel. A Twitter account associated with the president, as well as one belonging to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, both issued messages wishing "all Jews" a happy Rosh Hashanah holiday, widely perceived as a signal that they would discontinue Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli rhetoric.

Still, when asked last week by NBC News' Ann Curry whether he believed like Ahmadinejad that the holocaust was a "myth," Rouhani deflected, "I'm not a historian. I'm a politician. What is important for us is that the countries of the region and the people grow closer to each other, and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that he does not believe Rouhani represents real change, pointing out that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains the ultimate authority. There are some indications that the Netanyahu government may attempt to veto any burgeoning U.S.-Iran engagement efforts, which it worries would only give Tehran more time to enrich uranium. Today's walk-out is a reassertion of Israel's skepticism about Rouhani, as well as perhaps its concerns that it would be sidelined in any direct U.S.-Iran talks.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
In defense of dads
Play Videos
How to make head cheese
Perks of private flying
The rise and fall of baseball cards
Play Videos
Husband finds love, loss in baseball
New hurdles for a Maryland tradition
How to survive a shark attack
Play Videos
Portland's most important meal of the day
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to save and spend money at college
Next Story
Max Fisher · September 24, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.