This created a bit of a stir and incredulity, given Iran's longstanding hatred of all things Zionist.
Well, it turns out that this gentleman really didn't mean what he said:
The following day, 20 July, Rahim-Masha'i denied the reports of his speech. "This is not what I meant and these are all lies. During my speech I also said that Israel was dead and only its funeral ceremony has been postponed, but they [the press] did not publish these statements," Iranian state radio quoted him as saying.The Iran Press Service adds:
Fars news agency, which appears to have been the sole source for the vice-president's original, contested, remarks, cited him as declaring: "By `Israel' I meant the Palestinian and Jewish people living in Palestine, not the immigrant Jews or Zionists, because we do not recognize the Zionists at all."
The original Fars report on Rahim-Masha'i's remarks was carried by a number of Iranian newspapers on 20 July, including the reformist E'temad-e Melli and Aftab-e Yazd.The hardline daily, Keyhan, on 21 July criticized the vice- president over his remarks.
“Sorry, when I said Iranians are friendly with the Israeli people, actually I wanted to say Palestinian people”, Mr. Esfandiar Rahim Mosha’i, the Iranian vice-President in charge of Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organisation corrected on 21 July 2008 his earlier statement...How predictable was this?
What surprised more political analysts is that not only the statement by Mr. Rahim Mosha’i is in total contrast with the usual anti-Israeli outbursts by the President and his denial of the Holocaust, postures that have outraged international public opinion, but also he used the words “Israel” and “Israelis” even though that these references are officially prohibited by the Islamic Republic, referring to Israel as the “Zionist Entity” and to the Israelis as “Zionist Occupiers” or “Usurpators”.
In an official, but mild denial, published by the same Fars News on Monday 21 July, Mr. Rahim Mosha’i says “it is obvious that Iran can not be friendly with Zionist usurpators. Everyone should have understood that I made a mistake by saying we are friendly with the Israeli people while I had the Palestinians in mind”, he said, adding “however, as stated by our dear President several time, Iranians have no enmity with the American or the Jewish people, which we distinguish from the Zionists who occupied Palestinian’s homeland”.