Aug. 31, 2003
Where are our friends? By Yossi Olmert http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1062228120045
Persia and Israel shared years of friendship and strategic cooperation until the Shah's regime was overthrown in 1979. Early good relations resulted from the fact that Persian nationalism did not contradict close relations with Israel. The Shah's never conducted a Shi'ite foreign policy, and Arab countries chiefly Iraq were the Shah's implacable enemies.
However, under the current Islamic Republic foreign policy is driven not only by Iranian interests but also by Islamicism. With regard to Israel, the Islamic element is dominant and unshakeable.
By adopting a vitriolic anti-Israel policy the Islamic regime hoped to win over Arab and Muslim public opinion. Let's admit it: They have largely succeeded.
By placing itself in the forefront of the struggle against Israel, the regime seeks to highlight the conflict in the Middle East as not just Israeli-Palestinian or Israel-Arab, but as one with a major religious dimension something that was previously in the background. For tactical reasons the religious angle was blurred by the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world.
It is no coincidence that Islamic terrorism aimed at Israel as well as the US has flourished since the establishment of the Islamic regime.
THE IRAN of the Ayatollahs means business. Its leaders want to destroy Israel, and they say so without any qualms. But many in Israel and in the West can't bring themselves to grasp the depth of Iran's hatred. Legions of pundits and politicians would have us believe that the Iranians do not mean what they say.
The inability to accept that there are political systems motivated by philosophies utterly opposed to ours and which really do intend to realize themselves at our expense is hard for Westerners to acknowledge the shock of 9/11 notwithstanding.
The Bush administration defines Iran as part of the axis of evil, suggesting growing awareness of the dangers it poses. But that is as far as it goes.
In Israel there was a behind-the-scenes debate about the extent to which Iran actually poses a challenge. Israel's security and intelligence community is now unified behind the assessment that the Iranian situation is serious. Even so-called moderates, including former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, are in the forefront of the anti-Israel chorus.
But our problem isn't the rhetoric. Iran is relentlessly pursuing a nuclear program which could pose a mortal danger to Israel. Whether they are two or four years from the completion of this program is unknown, but there is no doubt that we are approaching the twelfth hour.
The bulk of the intelligence gathered by various countries attests to this reality, and the fact that there may have been some exaggeration about Iraq's WMD programs should not undermine our faith in the depth and accuracy of the information about Iran.
Ideally, the US should have led an uncompromising campaign against Iran's programs, preferably achieving the cooperation of Russia and other states which support Iran's buildup.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Israel is more or less alone in sounding the alarm. Publicity is the first element in a strategy designed to arouse world attention. But more needs to be done.
For instance, America's presence in Iraq could act as the main leverage of pressure on Iran. Overt and covert activities could be initiated by the US that would weaken Iran's self-confidence and boost the motivation of its internal opposition.
With the clock ticking, Israel may have to take a crucial decision regarding Iran and in the not too distant future.
The choice confronting our leadership is between relying on American-led action, which has not yet materialized, or going it alone and dealing militarily with the Iranian nuclear buildup.
Let us not delude ourselves: This is not going to be like the Iraqi operation. We are facing an entirely different and much more difficult situation, though not an impossible one.
Even at this late stage Israel's supreme national interest lies in cooperation with the US. Any US action would have less hazardous regional repercussions than unilateral Israeli moves. The question therefore is whether the Bush administration still possesses enough energy to go beyond the Iraqi arena to deal with Iran.
For Israeli leaders, the question is: Will they be ready, in due course, to follow Menachem Begin's courageous 1981 example left no other choice?
Nothing less than the very existence of Israel is at stake.
The writer is a Middle East specialist.
"THE IRAN of the Ayatollahs means business. Its leaders want to destroy Israel, and they say so without any qualms. But many in Israel and in the West can't bring themselves to grasp the depth of Iran's hatred. Legions of pundits and politicians would have us believe that the Iranians do not mean what they say."
Unfortunately, I have to agree. This appears to be the case.
The West, in general, seems to be in denial about the Iranian Regime, and rarely equates it's viciousness with that of it's previous neighbor, Saddam.
Though it deserves to be.
I'm pleased to see Mr. Olmert seperates the sentiments of the Iranian gov't from its people.