TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international community to impose sanctions on Iran after its president Hassan Rouhani called Israel a “cancerous tumor” established by Western countries to advance their own interests in the region.
“Israel knows very well how to defend itself from the murderous Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said in a statement Saturday. “Rouhani’s slander, which calls for the destruction of Israel, proves yet again why the nations of the world need to join in the sanctions against the Iranian terrorist regime which threatens them.”
Earlier that day, Rouhani said in an address at the an annual Islamic Unity Conference that Israel was a “fake regime” set up by Western countries.
“One of the ominous results of World War II was the formation of a cancerous tumor in the region,” he said, according to English quotes published by the state-affiliated Iranian Mehr News Agency.
The cancer slur, while often repeated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, is not usually heard from Rouhani, who many in the west consider to be the moderate face of the Islamic Republic.
“They deployed a power in the region that completely obeys the West in regional matters,” Rouhani said in his address.
He added that Israel “killed and displaced the historical nation of Palestine.”
Rouhani also slammed the U.S. for forging ties with “regional Muslim nations” in an effort to protect Israel, an apparent reference to Tehran’s rival Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Nevertheless, he added, Iran would defend Saudi Arabia from “terrorism and superpowers.”
“We do consider you as a brother,” he said. “We do consider the people of Mecca and Medina our brothers,” referring to Islam’s two holiest cities in Saudi Arabia.
He added that the embassy transfer to Jerusalem was proof of the U.S.’s increasing “hostility towards the world of Islam.”
“We will win against Zionism and the US if we become united,” he said.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also blasted Rouhani’s statement, and took to Twitter to slam the Iranian president for calling for Israel’s destruction. He added that given his own country’s historic responsibility to fight antisemitism, supporting Israel was paramount.