Monday, February 9, 2009

Imagined affinities, imagined enmities: The strange tale of Iran and Israel

By Alastair Crooke

Le Monde diplomatique, February, 2009

"The early Zionists never believed they would be accepted in the Arab world and pinned their hopes on the non-Arab periphery instead, particularly Iran. Israel reversed that policy by opening talks with a weakened Arafat in the early 1990s. But peace with the Palestinians did not happen and the ‘radicals’ grew more radical.

We had very deep relations with Iran, cutting deep into the fabric of the two peoples,” said a high-ranking official at the Israeli foreign ministry just after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Israeli (and US) officials then saw it as madness to view Iran as anything other than a natural interlocutor. Thirty years later, western policy-makers, and particularly Israelis, see Iran as a growing threat. Could this fear be based on a misreading of Iran’s revolution?

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, did not see Israel as part of the Middle East, but as part of Europe. From 1952, Ben-Gurion repeated that although Israelis were sitting in the Middle East, this was a geographical accident, for they were a European people. “We have no connection with the Arabs,” he said. “Our regime, our culture, our relations, is not the fruit of this region. There is no political affinity between us, or international solidarity” (1).

Ben-Gurion called for a concerted effort to persuade the United States that Israel could be a strategic asset in the Middle East. But President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-61) repeatedly declined Israel’s entreaties, believing that the US was better placed to manage US interests independently of Israeli assistance......"

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