As part of his 8th of May recent article for the National Interest, Trita Parsi , the head of the National Iranian – American Council describes what he believes Israel sees as “the real threat from Iran”: i.e a possible rapprochement between Tehran and Washington. Describing what this would entail, Parsi quotes Bar Ilan Professor Gerald Steinberg who states “The Great Satan will make up with Iran and forget about Israel,”.
Yes, there are some Israelis who are worried about the U.S reducing some of its support for Israel in order to “reach a deal with Iran over issues in the Middle East and the Caspian sea” as Parsi describes. But to say “Therein, of course, lay “the” real threat from Iran (with an emphasis on the) is an inaccurate assessment of facts on the ground in Israel.
The reason being that other important events have taken place in Israel which have had a far more profound impact on Israel’s threat perception regarding Iran. Events which Mr Parsi’s analysis does not take into consideration.
As Parsi correctly points out in the article, the Israeli government reached out to Iran in the late 90s and early 2000s, but it was turned down. Israel in fact did more than what he describes, as I described in my piece for Al Monitor entitled “Was Ariel Sharon Israel’s Secret Channel to Iran?”.
However the article in the National Interest stops there. It does not mention what happened after Iran’s rejection of Israel’s overtures.
Iran soon started supporting one of the biggest campaigns to kill Israeli civilians, carried out by Hamas in the second intifada. During that campaign 649 Israeli civilians were deliberately targeted in civilian buses and Cafes. The victims included pregnant mothers, and many children. Iran, as well as Saudi Arabia were the two biggest financial sponsors of Hamas. So much so that in his 2003 faxed “grand bargain” to the US, the Iranian supreme leader tried to use Iran’s influence over Hamas as leverage.
Meanwhile the Iranian regime was continuing to work on a nuclear weapon until 2003, as confirmed by the NIE in 2007.
To many Israelis, the Iranian regime not only called for the death of Israelis through “death to Israel” chants, it also paid Hamas to do it. Meanwhile as the killings were going on, it was working on a nuclear weapon. Iran had even tried to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan. Not to mention the Iranian regime (not the current government)’s denial of the holocaust which Ahmadinejad started and Khamenei is now continuing as well as calls for Israel to be wiped off.
To any politician, and not just Israeli politicians, such actions and threats from another country are far more real and important than what Parsi purports to be “the real threat” which Iran poses to Israel.
The argument could also be made as to whether there is any real chance that the U.S would reduce some of its support for Israel specifically for the purpose of reaching a deal with Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Would that be domestically feasible or realistic in the U.S? According to Gallup’s latest poll, 72 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel, while only 9% have a favorable view of Iran. This is in addition to the strong support for Israel in Capitol Hill whereas Iran has almost no support. These would make such a decision very costly for any U.S politician.