By Avigdor Eskin | VOR
Ayatollah Yousef Saanei has recently appealed to the Iranian government to stop the “war-mongering rhetoric” towards Israel. He accused President Ahmadinejad of “provocations” and warned of possible disastrous consequences.
“We must do everything to prevent the Zionist attack on Iran, because it will lead to a huge disaster for Iran” – this is the first public statement of the Iranian spiritual authority with such a criticism of the policy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei against Israel.
Ayatollah Saanei is called “the Great” in the Shiite world, and he is considered to be the leading religious authority for millions of followers. This last statement brings to the public a deepening conflict between Ahmadinejad and the Iranian parliament, as well as the dissatisfaction of many ayatollahs by the policy of the president.
Iran’s leaders have resorted to especially strong language against Israel, including open calls for its destruction. Following this policy, the Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Reza Sajjadi consistently referred on his official blog to Israel as “occupied Palestine”. This has caused considerable outrage and led to a petition among Russian citizens to the Foreign Ministry demanding to declare Sajjadi a persona non grata.
The relations between Israel and Iran were significantly strained in recent months after several terrorist attacks against Israeli targets in Georgia, Thailand, India and Bulgaria. Few Iranian citizens have been arrested. Israel accused the Iranian secret services in the organization of bloody actions.
Yet behind the veil of rhetoric, Israeli-Iranian relations seem more diverse than is commonly believed. This is related to the ancient ties between Jews and Persians, which traces back to Cyrus, who helped to build the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Many in Jerusalem and in Tehran remember the good and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries before the Ayatollah Khomeini revolution in 1978.
Many analysts in Israel believe that at this point an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is inevitable. However, they are skeptical about the possibility of serious fighting between the two countries, because of the Iranian military inferiority. But Iran could respond with a symbolic shelling for the sake of pride and dignity.
Ahmadinejad can also of course try to get Hezbollah in Lebanon engaged in some missile strikes against Israel, but in light of the Syrian civil war and natural fear of consequences, the final position of the Lebanese militants is not clear yet.
All this offers a unique opportunity for Russian diplomacy. The real chance will come after the upcoming withdrawal from the post of President Ahmadinejad. As long as he stays in office, the idea of an Israeli-Iranian dialogue is not seen as realistic.
The Iranian leader had chanted “Death to Israel” too often and had been too defiantly engaged in Holocaust denial and revising the history of the Second World War that no Israeli leader could enter negotiations with him. But any new Iranian leader after him may be invited to Moscow to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel under the auspices of the president of Russia.
Such a development seems now phantasmagoric. But if to look at the Iranian-Israeli relations after Ahmadinejad leaves and after the elimination of Iranian nuclear facilities, the rapprochement between the two countries with the participation of Russia will be a natural and mutually-beneficial move.
Nowadays Israel and Iran have some real vital interests in common. The two parties have been threatened by the “Arab Spring”, both Israel and Iran are interested now in the preservation of the Assad regime in Syria. If the cooperation between the two countries could be established today, there would be a real chance to reinstate stability in Syria.
This far-fetching plan can start with Israeli-Iranian contacts in Moscow at the level of non-governmental organizations. First of all, it should be a meeting between Israeli and Iranian spiritual authorities: leading ayatollahs will sit with rabbinical sages from Israel to look for common ground. Then the summit can take place. The leaders who will pave the way for such a meeting in Moscow can count on the Nobel Peace Prize.