The former director of Israeli’s spy agency wrote last week that the Israeli government should cease taking steps that delegitimize the Iranian people’s decision to elect a relative moderate as their next president and offer support for negotiations between the United States and the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy said that U.S. officials have expressed cautious optimism that the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s next president is a positive sign that could open the door to a potential agreement over the nuclear issue, but at the same time, Israeli officials “cling” to the idea that Iran “remains determined to annihilate us.”
“Israel is essentially telling the Iranian voters that their actions are insignificant; that there is no chance their situation will improve and that Israel is determined to delegitimize their choice,” Halevy wrote in a op-ed on the Israeli website Ynet News. “But if Rohani is so insignificant in our eyes,” Halevy added, referring to the fact that final say on Iran’s nuclear policy rests with the Supreme Leader, “why invest so much effort in his delegitimization?”
“Some of the Americans may reach the conclusion that Israel’s only goal is to hurt the chances for negotiations with Iran,” he wrote. Israel’s former top spy noted that Rouhani has filled his government with “figures who are familiar to Western nations, mainly the US,” has said he wants to revive talks on the nuclear program, has an economic interest in getting a deal done and concluded that the Israeli government must sign on to this process:
What’s the point of signaling to Iran that a gap is opening up between us and Washington even before nuclear talks have begun? Why should we doubt the Americans’ ability to negotiate wisely and responsibly?
I suggest that Israel officially announce its support for negotiations between the US and Iran that are aimed at removing the Iranian nuclear threat from the map of the world, and it will assess the results of these negotiations in reference to this goal alone. As long as this goal is not achieved, Israel will continue to have its finger on the trigger.
Halevy has previously been outspoken against ramping up war rhetoric on Iran while the negotiations play themselves out and has urged a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. “Our aim should be to win the war without firing one shot,” he has said.
The divergence of views between American and Israeli officials on how to greet Rouhani’s election, as described by Halevy, is similarly playing out domestically in the United States among war hawks and those promoting diplomacy with Iran on the nuclear issue.
The Washington Post editorial board, normally reliably pro-war, recently endorsed embracing Rouhani, at least for the time being, and called for renewed talks. “He is not a reformer, but he is a centrist, and his election victory, as well as his early statements, could signal a new course, somewhat different from the bitter confrontations of recent years,” the Post ed board wrote this weekend. “[T]he West should resume negotiations soon to explore the depth of Mr. Rouhani’s seriousness and whether his election has come with room to maneuver.”