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An Insightful Look Into Iranian-Israeli Relations

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In a short essay on Tony Karon’s site, Trita Parsi gives a brief account of Israel’s attempts to engage Iran during the 90’s, and how the current policy of vilifying Iran was reached by Netanyahu.

According to Parsi, Netanyahu first sought to engage Iran—an old ally—and Turkey to form a non-Arab axis in the region, but his efforts were not successful—Netanyahu then adopted the disingenuous policy of portraying Iran as 1938 Germany.  For Israel, the real danger of Iran became its prospective rapprochement with the US at the expense of Israel’s preferred standing.

For more, read Parsi’s new book “Treacherous Alliance: the Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States.”

…But Netanyahu went beyond just lowering the rhetoric. He tried to reach an understanding with Iran though the help of prominent Iranian Jews, he stopped Israeli attacks on Iran within international organizations, he arranged for meetings between Iranian and Israeli representatives at European think tanks, and he encouraged Israeli parliamentarians to reach out to their Iranian counterparts at meetings of the Inter-Parliamentarian Union. At one point, he even sought Kazakh and Russian mediation between Iran and Israel. In December 1996, Kazakhstan’soil minister, Nurlen Balgimbaev, who enjoyed excellent ties with Tehran, visited Israel for medical treatment and was approached about arranging a dialogue with Iran to discuss ways to reduce tensions between the two countries.

None of his efforts bore any fruit, though. Iran’s dismissal of Israel’s conciliatory signals convinced the Netanyahu government that just like in the Iran Contra affair, Tehran only wanted to mend fences with the U.S. and had no real interest in rebuilding its ties with Israel.

Therein, of course, lay the real threat from Iran.

The Israelis saw danger in a rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, believing this would inevitably see the U.S. sacrifice some of its support for Israel in order to find a larger accommodation with Iran, in pursuit of U.S. strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Iran would become emboldened and the U.S. would no longer seek to contain its growth. The balance of power would shift from Israel towards Iran and the Jewish State would no longer be able rely on Washington to control Tehran. “The Great Satan will make up with Iran and forget about Israel,” Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University in Israel noted. Israel’s relative regional importance to the U.S. would decline with a warming of ties between Washington and Tehran.

So, after nine months of courting Tehran, Netanyahu gave up and reverted back to the Peres-Rabin policy of vilifying Iran and seeking its international isolation…

Irancove @ October 10, 2007

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