President Shimon Peres sent a message of peace to Iranians from the podium of Israel’s parliament on Wednesday, saying there was no need for the two peoples to be foes.
“We were not born enemies and there is no need for us to live as enemies,” Peres said in a speech marking the 63rd anniversary of the Knesset’s founding.
“Do not allow the flags of hostility to cast a dark shadow on your historic heritage,” he said. “Your people are a sensitive people who aspire for friendship and peace, and not for conflict and wars.”
In a televised address on Friday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Israel as “a cancerous tumour that must be cut out, and God willing it will be.”
“From now on we will support any group that will fight the Zionist regime,” said the all-powerful Iranian leader.
Speculation has risen in recent weeks, driven in part by comments made by officials in the Jewish state, about the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran.
Israel and much of the international community believe that Iran’s nuclear programme masks a covert weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies.
Widely believed to be the Middle East’s only albeit undeclared nuclear power, Israel has supported tough sanctions against Iran but also insists on retaining the military option to halt its nuclear activities.
Before the 1979 Islamic revolution which brought the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power, Israel and the shah’s Iran had warm relations.