Iran softening on Israel? Yeah, right.
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images I doubt Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent warm fuzzies across Israel yesterday when he said that it’s not Israelis Iran has a problem with, just the Israeli government. “We have no problem with people and nations,” the Iranian president declared. “Of course, we do not recognize a government or a nation for the Zionist ...
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
I doubt Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent warm fuzzies across Israel yesterday when he said that it’s not Israelis Iran has a problem with, just the Israeli government.
“We have no problem with people and nations,” the Iranian president declared. “Of course, we do not recognize a government or a nation for the Zionist regime.”
Some analysts suggest that Ahmadinejad’s words reveal a softening on Iran’s feelings toward Israel, if only as a response to Western pressure.
My take? That’s giving far too much international weight to the president’s comments, which were likely meant only as a domestic show of support for Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, Iran’s vice president. Mashai caused a lot of controversy in July when he said that Iranians were friends to all people, “even Israelis and Americans.”
It’s hard to believe, moreover, that such a lukewarm statement from Ahmadinejad constitutes a change in policy. The Iranian president was quick to add that it Israel is perpetrating a holocaust on the Palestinian people and repeat his certainty that the Holocaust was “fake.” And which Israelis will be charmed by the stipulation that they were duped by an evil Zionist regime?
Finally, if there were any confusion on where the government of Iran really stands on this matter, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did his part to reassure the world that indeed, the Islamic Republic’s hostility to Israel and its people still runs red hot. Khamenei, while addressing thousands of worshipers in Tehran today, predicted the two countries were on a “collision course”:
Who are Israelis? They are responsible for usurping houses, territory, farmlands and business. They are combatants at the disposal of Zionist operatives. A Muslim nation cannot remain indifferent vis-à-vis such people who are stooges at the service of the arch-foes of the Muslim world.”
So, how much backtracking is really going on here? I’d hazard a guess and say: absolutely none. Ahmadinejad, who scoffed on Thursday at the idea of a two-state solution, said, “I have heard some say the idea of Greater Israel has expired. I say that the idea of lesser Israel has expired, too.” Hardly the words of a changed man.
Rebecca Frankel was an editor at Foreign Policy from 2013-2018.
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