Israel: a new pariah state for western nations?

Israel: a new pariah state for western nations?
Comment: Western relations with Iran are warming, much to the exasperation of Israel, which is facing rising criticism from its traditional allies, says Hilary Aked.
5 min read
02 Apr, 2015
US relations with Israel are arguably at an all time low [Getty]
The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu remains convinced of Tehran's intention to build a nuclear bomb, but has been unable to convince others of his views. He desperately doesn't want Iran and world powers to agree a deal over its contested nuclear programme.

As a Saudi-led coalition begins bombing Yemen, Netanyahu will no doubt be hoping Iran's backing of the Houthi movement could destabilise talks on its nuclear programme.

Even without Israeli intervention, the potential for the negotiations to collapse is real.

However, the six world powers at the talks have come closer than ever before and it seems undeniable that Iran is, to some extent, "coming in from the cold".

At the same time US relations with Israel have hit an arguably unprecedented low: could Israel, then, end up as a new pariah?

Washington-Tehran rapprochement
     It seems undeniable that Iran is, to some extent, 'coming in from the cold'.

Major sticking points remain before the deal with Iran can be sealed, not least the question of UN sanctions. The fine details are also yet to be hammered out, even if world leaders can sign on the dotted line over a framework deal.

But given the long years of mistrust between many of the negotiating parties, primarily of course the US and Iran, an agreement would be a major diplomatic achievement, the significance of which should not be underestimated.

Frosty relations between Iran and the world's only superpower are often dated to the 1979 Iranian revolution, which saw the overthrow of the CIA-backed Shah. A crucial contextual precursor, the US's role in the coup that removed the democratically elected Mossadegh in 1953, is less often mentioned in English media.

In more recent history, when George W Bush declared the start of the ongoing "war on terror" after 9/11, he identified Iran as one of the key states in what he termed the "axis of evil". However, in light of present day realities both states appear willing to set the past at least partially aside.

Iran has been deeply involved in the Iraqi army's operations against the forces of the Islamic State group in Tikrit. Given that combatting IS has fast become the West's key priority in the region - more so than its rather hollow opposition to the Assad regime in Syria - Iran could be seen, in this respect, as an asset, albeit far from a card-carrying ally of US interests.

We should not be surprised therefore, that the West now appears less concerned about Iran's violent repression of the 2009 Green movement and other longstanding and legitimate concerns about human rights.

US and Israel: falling out of love?

For Israel, however, Iran remains the number one threat in the region. This position owes less to genuine fear than it does to propaganda.

Netanyahu has used the "Iranian issue" to block calls for pressure on Israel over its continuing colonisation of Palestinian land. The road to Middle East peace, he has suggested, lies through Tehran. Iran, in other words would have to be "dealt with" before a just peace in Palestine/Israel could even begin to be pursued.

Given that Israel has its own nuclear weapons, its horror at the prospect of a deal with Iran is therefore more fundamentally about the rejection of its foreign policy vision by Washington. Secondarily, it is possible that the spotlight could return to its subordination of the Palestinians.
     Netanyahu has used the 'Iranian issue' to block calls for pressure on Israel over its continuing colonisation of Palestinian land.

During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2005 to 2013 spell as president of Iran, Israel and its influential supporters in the US had considerable success in painting Iran as a rogue state.

The film producers behind the anti-Muslim film Obsession went on to make Iranium in 2011. Netanyahu memorably drew a red line on a cartoon bomb at the UN in 2012. Ultra-Zionist commentator Caroline Glick declared at the Jerusalem Post's annual conference in New York the same year that the only thing left to say on Iran was "bombs away".

But with the election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran in 2013, diplomatic rapprochement was back on the cards - and this potential reconciliation is not Israel's only worry. There was no way back once Netanyahu went through with his speech to US Congress, arranged behind Obama's back.

Then, after provocatively racist comments helped him, at the eleventh hour, win re-election as Israeli prime minister, those within the White House could suddenly be heard making comments drawing attention to the approaching 50 year anniversary of the Israeli occupation.

With the apartheid nature of Israel becoming harder to deny a civil society initiative - the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – explicitly calling for Israel to be isolated until it complies with international law is also entering the mainstream.

Against this backdrop, even former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has noted that Israel is gradually becoming a burden on, rather than an asset to the US.

The pace of change should not be over-exaggerated. Israel maintains thriving trade relations - not least in arms (it is the world leader in drone exports, for instance) - with the West but also with many Arab states and increasingly China.

Depending on the outcomes of the 2016 US and 2017 Iranian elections, the countries' nascent, tentative rapport could be reversed. Nonetheless even as violent upheavals ravage several countries in the Middle East, the seeds of more subtle but perhaps equally significant diplomatic shifts in power relations are also being sewn.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.