Iran and Israel: A history of the world’s best enmity
Tensions between Israel and Iran are at a peak following Israel's retaliatory FRANCE 24 traces the tumultuous relations between the two. In the wake of the past two decades of acrimony between Iran and Israel, it may be hard to imagine that the countries ever had friendly relations. While the west has at times been divided in its evaluation of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear programme, in Israel the feeling is unambiguous.
Iran–Israel relations - Wikipedia
I agree with that, but I would add that Israel and the United States also have a Cinderella-slipper approach to the Middle East peace process. That is, only parties that can frontload their concessions need apply.
This is a profoundly dysfunctional approach to diplomacy. Very simple, very basic: Policies that deny this basic reality are bound to fail, and have failed, in terms of both Arab-Israeli peace making and dealing effectively with Iran. I will elaborate on this with three basic points. First, though they are non-state actors, Hamas and Hezbollah have become indispensable political players in their respective national and regional contexts.
Simply put, these groups win elections, and they win them for the best possible reasons: These groups should have a place in the peace process because otherwise the process has no meaning, except perhaps as a crass motion-without-movement exercise. Those who continue to depict these groups as entirely nihilistic enterprises with no real political agenda are either not paying attention or are deliberately distorting reality for their own political purposes. I think that President Asad wants better relations with the United States and a peace settlement with Israel, but one that meets well-established Syrian redlines, such as full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
With the removal of Syrian military forces from Lebanon following the Hariri assassination inHezbollah has become an even more valuable asset for Syria. It is now, among other things, a key ally for Damascus in protecting Syrian interests in Lebanon. It also provides, from their perspective, a critically important and, at this point, strategic deterrent against Israel.
Iran has also proven its strategic value to Syria in recent years. Iranian support was also critical for Syria in fending off heavy pressure from the United States, most of Europe and moderate Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, in the wake of the Hariri assassination.
In such an uncertain strategic environment, Asad will continue to value the hedge provided by his close relationship with Iran. Third, all that I have laid out so far means that, at this juncture, Iran is bound to be at least an indirect party to any serious Middle East peace process. It is counterproductive to see this as an obstacle to peace. More constructively, it should be seen as a requirement for progress toward peace. In fact, Hamas leaders and President Asad have told me in meetings with him — and he and Khaled Mashal have said publicly — that Iran has backed their efforts to reach a settlement.
They publicly endorsed it, not once but twice. Now for the more hawkish version of linkage favored by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel and others: I believe this vision is at least as delusional as the suggestion by many in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq that the road to Jerusalem ran through Baghdad.
I also think it is delusional to think that, if the Islamic Republic of Iran disappeared or were effectively contained, there would be no more problems with the Middle East peace process and that Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria would simply fall into line with Israeli and American preferences for organizing the regional order. These actors have their own agendas and their own preferences for regional diplomacy, which they will not give up simply because Israeli or U.
To this day, the Islamic Republic has no meaningful capacity to project conventional military power beyond its borders. Iraq, Lebanon and among the Palestinians. Whether we like it or not, Iran has sided with groups and individuals that have been perceived as winners and have actually won elections in their key regional contexts. In fact, the opposite is true. In reality, the prospect of strategic cooperation with Israel, whether we like it or not, is profoundly unpopular with Arab publics, regardless of what some of their ambassadors may say from time to time.
Even moderate Arab regimes cannot ignore the reality of this profound dislike among their publics and sustain that kind of cooperation. Pursuit of an Israeli-moderate-Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional.
Even more important, it will continue to leave the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in freefall, as they are today. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran is also not going to take Israeli or U.
It should be taken especially seriously among those of us in the American Jewish community, because he is on an extremely dangerous course. This confrontation would threaten U. Israel and the pro-Likud community, if not the broader Jewish community here in the United States, may well be blamed when the resulting U.
We should be considering a more constructive way forward. That would entail real U. There is precedent for doing this successfully. It is what Nixon and Kissinger did with China and Egypt in the early s, striking a grand bargain with, at the time, these two rising regional powers in a way that profoundly changed for the better their respective regional environments. In particular, the U. This is a much better scenario than if we had continued to try to contain or roll back Egyptian or Chinese power and influence.
Today, from a strategic perspective, bringing Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah into a diplomatic process and eventually a political settlement would be at least as consequential. For those who buy into the demonization of the Islamic Republic and these groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, it would be useful to remember that it is only in retrospect that the late Anwar Sadat is viewed as a man of peace.
But the critical point here is that, without U. And I do so with an amendment to the portrait that Hillary has just given you of what the conventional wisdom is — actually two amendments. But I do believe that it would help. And it would certainly help with the challenge that we face from Iran. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a very convenient vehicle for doing so.
Why would they have intervened in Egyptian efforts recently to reconcile Fatah and Hamas so as to provide a unified Palestinian polity that could make peace with Israel? Why would they have intervened to prevent Hamas from following through on that agreement? Why, when we were making progress between Israel and Syria, would we suddenly discover Hezbollah launching Katyusha rockets into northern Israel to disrupt those negotiations?
Well, there is a thread that runs through all of this: It says very clearly over and over again that it wishes to destroy Israel, wishes to wipe it off the map. Those are the statements we all have heard very clearly emanating from Tehran, in particular, from its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
That is the fundamental inconvenient truth, which cannot be resolved by some mythical grand bargain on the Egyptian model. Egypt sought to make peace with Israel.
Egypt in the form of President Sadat evicted Soviet advisers in with the express purpose of seeking to build a relationship with the United States and make peace with Israel. Sadat was very clear about his desire and intention to make peace with Israel before the war. The tragic fact of the matter is that neither Israel nor the United States took him seriously, and he went to war in order to make peace. But as soon as he had upended the status quo and taken a position across the Suez Canal, he turned to making peace with Israel and never turned back.
That is a fundamental difference between the Egyptian model and the Iranian model. The Iranians have no desire or strategic interest in seeing a grand bargain struck that involves peace and reconciliation with Israel in the Middle East. This is a fundamental reality that we have to find a way to deal with.
How to deal with it is, I think, clear. Hillary has laid out what she refers to as the conventional strategy for doing so.
And I think it is one that makes sense. On the one hand, we work as hard as possible to bring together the international community through various mechanisms. The most recent of these were UN Security Council sanctions designed to send a message to Iran that its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons in contravention of its commitments under the [Nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty NPTto which it is a signatory member, will be opposed by the international community.
Successive UN Security Council resolutions have made that position very clear. Iran, of course, has refused to listen. The effort to send a message of unified resolve to Iran was combined last year in an effort to engage Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program, an effort that was spurned by Iran.
But the effort by President Obama, which was a sincere effort, failed. Now the effort is to apply more sanctions, not to make war on Iran, but to bring it back to the negotiating table. That effort to pressure Iran, to make it see that its interests do not lie in disrupting the whole nonproliferation regime, has to be, in my mind, combined with an effort to make peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Precisely because Iran uses the Arab-Israeli conflict to expand its influence in the region, pressure on Iran can indeed be enhanced by a comprehensive effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. And yes, that involves both an effort to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel, and it involves an effort to make peace between Israel and Syria.
Hillary cites some statement that the Iranians supported the Syrian negotiation with Israel. The question that Syria had to answer and, I believe, did answer in those negotiations was what its relationships would be with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, were it to make peace with Israel. Why was this a relevant question? Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas have one particular thing in common.
They all espouse the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel, and they do not support peace making with it. Therefore, this question is reasonably posed.
U.S. Policies Toward Israel and Iran: What are the Linkages? | Middle East Policy Council
If Syria intends to make peace with Israel, what will that peace treaty mean if Syria maintains strategic relations with a country and its proxies that are determined to destroy the very party that Syria is making peace with? If Syria were to make peace with Israel, it could not maintain the same relationships with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
It would have to change those relationships or Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas would have to make peace with Israel too. Therefore, it is, I believe, far more effective to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Arab states and the Palestinians and to try to find a way to thereby isolate Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas and convince them that violence, terrorism, conflict and destruction, and the abrogation of international obligation, do not achieve a more stable, peaceful and prosperous order for anybody in the Middle East, including the people they purport to represent.
Not even Israeli security experts argue that Iran would ever use a nuclear weapon against Israel or that there is even the threat of that. That is, absent any nuclear weapons, immediately, they should be attacked. The poll also reported that 70 percent of Israeli Jews said they would not consider emigrating if Iran got the bomb. So there is deep fear. Almost every decision that Israel makes about Gaza, about the aid flotilla, about Hamas, about the negotiations in general, is justified by references to Iran.Ronen Bergman on Iran-Israel Relations
News in Israel is not a politician saying that this is the s, that Iran is Nazi Germany inthat Ahmadinejad is Hitler.
Maybe Israel ofto quote her, is not the Jews of Europe in And a fantastic book by Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez, Foxbats over Dimona, used newly released documents and amazing research techniques to document the fact that the Soviets were egging the Arabs on to provoke Israel into a war that they could exploit to try to take out the budding nuclear capabilities at Dimona.
Hence, the unprecedented deployment of Foxbats in reconnaissance missions over Dimona prior to the war. It may have been a very powerful factor in producing the Six-Day War. More recently, as was already mentioned, we can remember the hysteria that gripped the United States about whether weapons of mass destruction were in fact in the hands of Saddam Hussein — which precipitated what?
A gigantic American war in the Middle East. As was said, Iran has never been very good at projecting conventional military power outside its borders. Ahmadinejad is brilliant at that. I can give you very good examples of how he calculatedly does this for his own interests.
But that hysteria has many sources: I want to briefly go over some of those sources so we can see how powerful these feelings are in Israel and what they could be producing. On its most obvious level, the obsession with Iran, especially by Netanyahu and his government, is actually very simple and very familiar as a calculated distraction from what it does not want the United States and the world to pay attention to.
This is just one more ride on the peace-process carousel: And the merry-go-round continues. So this story about a Galut Jew is actually a story about Israeli right-wing governments, especially. In Central and Eastern Europe, they used to use Jews as intermediaries — tax collectors, enforcers, administrators and so on.
This poretz in Poland gets very angry at his Jew and threatens to kill him. The Jew is desperate. You just give me a year and a bear and I will teach the bear to talk. Nobody can teach a bear to talk, but anyway, what good is that? No, wait a minute. The Jew goes home. His wife says, what are you, crazy? The poretz will kill you.
The husband says, maybe I can teach the bear to talk. But many things can happen in a year. Maybe the poretz will die. Maybe the bear will die.
All of them have some substance, and this has some substance also. But there are other, deeper sources. Every ideology is a combination of a theory and an imperative to action. So when you challenge the theory behind an ideology, you are challenging it. It was all part of one process: You can actually be Islamic. So the future of the Middle East is not necessarily democratic or Western. When the shah — known as, you may recall, the Light of the Aryans — was emperor, his Pahlavi dynasty was put forward as a revival of the ancient Achaemenid dynasty.
It was a Persian and secular, pre-Islamic political formula. The spectacular rise of Iran under the shah was reassuring to Zionism. An ancient Middle Eastern people could reconstitute itself by using ancient myths as legitimizing formulas, even in the modern Middle East, to become secular and modern.
The sudden and complete disappearance of that regime was a shock to Israel, suggesting that the deep, volcanic process in the Middle East might not tolerate this kind of revival of an ancient, secular idea in the modern Middle East — not from the ancient Persians and perhaps not from the ancient Jews or Israelites either. The idea is to teach Arabs, over decades, through a series of defeats, that there is no hope of destroying Israel.
They will have to accept the reality of it. Best reports suggest that Israel, of course, has hundreds of sophisticated nuclear weapons and a highly capable delivery system. When the Shah was ousted, the tone of bilateral Iranian-Israeli relations dramatically changed. In his very first speeches, Khomeini, the supreme leader of the Islamic revolution, singled out the two main enemies of Iran: Anxious to extend the influence of the Islamic revolution in the Muslim world and to legitimise the power of the clerics, the Iranian leader, an author of many anti-Zionist works, positioned his nation as a defender of the Palestinian cause and Israel's primary enemy.
Israel, Khomeini stressed, was a country he wanted to see "disappeared" in order to "liberate Jerusalem". He was greeted by crowds shouting "death to Israel". InKhomeini ordered the creation of an Islamist militia, Hezbollah, in Lebanon, an Arab country with a large Shiite community. Despite Iran's anti-US, anti-Israeli rhetoric, the Ronald Reagan administration secretly authorised arms sales to Iran, via Israel, to help fund the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua while simultaneously negotiating the release of several US hostages being held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian militias.
At that time, Israel viewed the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq as a more immediate threat. Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but since the Jewish state -- along with India and Pakistan — is not a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty NPTIsrael is not subject to inspections.
Multiple sources suggested that hundreds of Revolutionary Guard operatives participated in the firing of rockets into Israel during the war, and secured Hezbollah's long-range missiles.
Revolutionary Guard operatives were allegedly seen operating openly at Hezbollah outposts during the war. The attack severely damaged the warship and killed four crewmen. It is alleged that between six and nine Revolutionary Guard operatives were killed by the Israeli military during the war. According to the Israeli media their bodies were transferred to Syria and from there, flown to Tehran.
Israel hinted that it was behind the attacks. Two truck convoys were destroyed, and an arms-laden ship was sunk in the Red Sea. Ina wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists began. The assassinations were widely believed to be the work of MossadIsrael's foreign intelligence service. According to Iran and global media sources, the methods used to kill the scientists is reminiscent of the way Mossad had previously assassinated targets.
The assassinations were alleged to be an attempt to stop Iran's nuclear program, or to ensure that it cannot recover following a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
On 12 Octoberan explosion occurred at an IRGC military base near the city of Khorramabadkilling 18 soldiers. Shahriari was killed, while Abbasi was severely wounded. On 23 JulyDarioush Rezaeinejad was shot dead in eastern Tehran. On 11 JanuaryMostafa Ahmadi Roshan and his driver were killed by a bomb attached to their car from a motorcycle.
It is believed that it had been developed by US and Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran denied that any explosion had occurred, but The Times reported damage to the nuclear plant based on satellite images, and quoted Israeli intelligence sources as saying that the blast indeed targeted a nuclear site, and was "no accident". The Israel Defense Forces reacted by firing four artillery shells at the area from where the launch originated. It was speculated that the attack was ordered by Iran and Syria as a warning to Israel.
Another 12 people were injured, of whom 7 later died in hospital. The blast killed 17 Revolutionary Guard operatives, including General Hassan Moqaddamdescribed as a key figure in Iran's missile program.
Yoram Cohenthe head of Shin Betclaimed that three planned attacks in TurkeyAzerbaijan and Thailand were thwarted at the last minute.
In Georgia, a car bomb failed to explode near the embassy and was safely detonated by Georgian police. In India, the car bomb exploded, injuring four people. Amongst the wounded was the wife of an Israeli Defense Ministry employee. The cell was uncovered when one of their bombs exploded. Police responded, and the Iranian agent present at the house threw an explosive device at officers that tore his legs off, and was subsequently taken into custody.
A second suspect was arrested as he tried to catch a flight out of the country, and the third escaped to Malaysiawhere he was arrested by Malaysian Federal Police. It is said Kazmi was an Indian citizen who worked for an Iranian publication.
Among the information released was a claim that Israeli commandos, in collaboration with Kurdish fighters, destroyed several underground Iranian facilities used for nuclear and defense research projects.