Tag Archives: 50th annual Munich Security Conference

An Israeli outreach to Iran

3 Feb

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon

It seems to me that Israel made a public outreach to Iran today.

As reported in the Times of Israel, today at the Munich Security Conference:

Even Israel’s top officials were being relatively nice to the Iranians. On Sunday morning, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the other Israeli delegates who were still in Munich (Livni and Cohen had already left) remained in their seats when Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif took the stage at one session.

According to at least one photo which I have seen, Yaalon sat on the front row. This does show a change in policy towards Iran. As noted in the same article by Raphael Ahern in the Times of Israel:

Just four months ago, Netanyahu ordered Israel’s delegation to the United Nations to walk out during the speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the General Assembly. “When Iran’s leaders stop denying the Holocaust of the Jewish people, stop calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and recognize Israel’s right to exist, the Israeli delegation will attend their addresses at the General Assembly,” Netanyahu said at the time.

In my opinion, there is almost zero chance that Defense Minister Ya’alon would have stayed for the Zarif panel, if he had been told otherwise by his boss, Benyamin Netanyahu.

Does this signal a complete shift in Netanyahu’s Iran policy? Unlikely. However I believe that it does signal a small positive step forward in order to test the waters. To see how the Iranian side reacts in the future. Israel wins no matter what. If Iran reacts positively then it would show that moderation and goodwill works. If Iran does not react or continues with its rhetoric against Israel then Israel could say that it is the other side that does not want to change, no matter what. This would strengthen Israel’s case against Iran’s nuclear program.

It must be noted that sitting through the presentation of your adversary at international forums has been used before to convey a message of goodwill. For example, on the 5th September 2000 former US Secretary of State Albright attended President Khatami’s speech at UNESCO. The next day president Clinton sat through president Khatami’s UNGA speech. Both were signs of goodwill to the Khatami government.

As well as in the 80s, Israel has on several occasions tried to reach out to the Iranian government in the 90s and in 2000. These include an outreach to the Khatami government through intermediaries in Europe and sending technical delegations to Iran (among other steps). Until now, none of these seem to have brought about any change to Iran’s hostile rhetoric and policies towards Israel.

Iran and Israel at the upcoming Munich Security Conference

31 Jan

We had Davos last weekend, and for this weekend we have the 50th annual Munich Security Conference

I enjoyed watching last year’s sessions on-line. As always this year I will be looking out for the Iran and Israel related sessions.

The Iran session is scheduled to take place on Sunday February 2nd, from 11.45 am until 1 pm local time. Foreign Minister Zarif will be part of that panel.

Israeli representatives already took part in one panel on the Middle East peace process.

The next Israel related event will take place immediately after the Iran panel at 1 pm local time on the 2nd of February. It will be an address by Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon.Going on straight after the Iran panel, I am sure Yaalon will have plenty to say. Lets just hope its not against Kerry (again).

What I find particularly interesting is that there are no Saudi and Iranian representatives sitting together on the same panel in Davos or Munich. I can understand why there is no panel with Iranian and Israeli representatives, but why not Iranians and Saudis? As we saw in the tense words exchanged between Hossein Mousavian and Sheikh Al Turki at the Koerberstiftung conference in Berlin in December last year, the two sides have plenty to say to each other.

You can find the live link to the sessions on this page (look out for: link to live video on the right hand side of the page)

And the full program here.