The reality is Iran’s president has no real power, that lies in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In increasingly strident tones, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been telling his American friends that the purported moderation of Iran’s new president is a ploy aimed at relieving international pressure and buying the Islamic Republic more time to cross the nuclear threshold.

But in ways both subtle and direct, some of those friends — among them some of Israel’s closest allies in Washington — are saying that maybe Hasan Rouhani is worth hearing out.

That was the message delivered this week by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, while leading a tour of Israel for 36 fellow House Democrats.

“We have a new [Iranian] president,” Hoyer told JTA from Israel, where the stalwart supporter of the Jewish state was on his 13th tour as a congressman. “It makes sense for the [Obama] administration to test the sincerity, willingness and ability of the new president to accomplish the objective of assuring the West and Israel and the U.N. what the Iranians are not doing, and will reverse what they already have done, toward a nuclear capability.”

The divergence represents a rare public gap on a crucial security issue between pro-Israel lawmakers and Netanyahu, who in a succession of meetings this month with congressional delegations to Israel has lobbied hard to persuade American leaders to ignore Rouhani’s overtures.

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