Netanyahu‘s Transformation of Israeli Policy towards Iran

Written By Dr. Reza Parchizadeh, Posted on February 10, 2020

In the course of Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure, a radical change took place in the Israeli approach towards Iran. One that could facilitate the fall of the Islamist Regime and a fundamental transformation of Iran-Israel relations.

After Iran’s spiralling descent to Islamism, Israel’s approach to Iran, like that of the US, was a strategy of “dual containment.” That is, Israel provided the Islamist regime of Iran with only so much military and strategic assistance that it could not be defeated by the Iraqi Ba’athist regime, which was a mutual enemy of both. During the notorious McFarlane Affair of the mid-1980s, where Ronald Reagan’s government sold arms to the Islamist regime in Iran to fund the anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua, Israel was also involved in the bargain.

Following George W. Bush’s attack on Saddam Hussein and the fall of the Ba’athist regime in the early 2000s, a power vacuum was created in Iraq. A consequence was the activation of the Quds Force in the Middle East, which became a direct threat to the Jewish State. Israel’s policy for pressuring the Islamist regime largely focused on supporting separatist movements in and around Iran. This became a constant source of distrust for the Iranian nationalist dissidents – those who regard Iran as a solid geopolitical entity – towards Israel. 

During those years, I raised this issue several times in American, Arabic, Israeli and Persian media. I said that while I understand Israel’s need to respond to the threats of the Islamist regime, I believe Israel should speak to the Iranian people and tell them that the bitterness and hatred stirred by the Islamist regime, between Iran and Israel, has nothing to do with the people of Iran. It should be communicated that Israel is a friend of the Iranian people, just as the Iranian people are generally friends with Israel.

What Netanyahu did was precisely that: instead of investing solely in the separatist movements, he changed course to directly speak with the people of Iran, to discredit the Islamist regime in public and at international podiums, and to send a message of friendship and solidarity to the Iranian nation. The short video messages that he occasionally sent to Iranians, and sometimes he would even speak Farsi, were some of the best examples of direct diplomacy – communicating with people instead of the regime – in our times.

Netanyahu’s approach to Iran has already borne fruit: today Iranians are generally in favour of Israel, and the apocalyptic regime of the mullahs can no longer incite Iran’s secular, non-Islamist population against Israel based on nationalist or patriotic grievances. In the long run, this approach, by removing one of the ideological levers of the regime (Israelophobia/anti-Semitism), will erode and eventually lead to the collapse of the Islamist regime in Iran.

These days Prime Minister Netanyahu is under immense political pressure in Israel. But what he pulled with regard to Iran was one of the most ingenious political feats in contemporary Middle East history – perhaps on a par with what Anwar Sadat did towards Israel in the 1970s. I wish Netanyahu forms government once again and sees the Islamist regime’s fall, of which he himself has been a great architect, as Israel’s prime minister.

But even if Bibi has to eventually depart, my hope is that the new leaders of Israel will appreciate Netanyahu’s tact and continue to implement his approach towards Iran. Persia was the ancient home of the Jewish people, and Iran is a good friend of Israel. As such, Israel should not hesitate to help Iran transition from evil tyranny to freedom and democracy. The day the evil regime falls, Iranians and Israelis will be the best of friends once more.

Dr. Reza Parchizadeh

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