Adrian Hamilton: Israel is just using Iran to stall progress on the Middle East

Israel is not Iran's primary concern, or target, and never has been

Share
Related Topics

It is sometimes said that if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran did not exist, the Israelis would have to invent. him. What better proof do you need of the dire threat that the country faces than a man who says the state of Israel should be expunged from the map of the Middle East?

Iran obsesses Israel. Talk to any Israeli, listen to any speech by an Israeli politician, examine the security policy being developed by the new government of Benyamin Netanyahu and Iran is always there – a looming menace threatening the country with nuclear attack and driving on its surrogates Hamas and Hizbollah to harry the Jewish state

The reason for this obsession is obvious enough. While Iran may not threaten Israel directly with armed invasion, its development of nuclear technology poses a particular challenge to Israel's security as the sole nuclear power in the region. Add to that Iran's support of Hamas and Hizbollah and it is easy to see how it could be seen as the overriding cause of Israeli concern. However real those fears may be, it is also true that it suits Israel to build up Iran as the great danger to its existence. With the fall of Saddam Hussein, it has needed an enemy formidable enough to justify its continued retention of secret nuclear weapons and its claim that security must override all other considerations in its policy towards its neighbours, the more so now the US is moving towards direct talks with Iran, and putting pressure on the new Israeli government to enter substantive talks with the Palestinians.

Indeed, in his visit to Washington this week, the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, very specifically used Iran as the counter to those pressures. Yes, said Peres, preparing the way for the visit of Netanyahu later this month, we will talk to the Palestinians but you will have to help neutralise Iran in exchange. As a "grand bargain" it is a clever piece of politics. As an actual way forward, President Obama would be wrong even to consider it. Wrapping up Iran and Palestine in this way would only make a solution to either that much more difficult. Iran may indeed pose a problem of regional security.

Even if you do suspect Iran of the worst of intentions in developing nuclear technology – and it vehemently denies any wish to produce nuclear weapons – its motivations seem far more driven by its fear of military attack by the US and encirclement by hostile Sunni Arab nations (George Bush gave it plenty of cause to worry on both counts) than any ambition to assault Israel.

Ahmadinejad certainly finds it useful to ramp up the anti-Zionist rhetoric as a means of proclaiming Iran's Islamic credentials in the Arab street. Iran also finds it useful to help fund and arm radical movements in the region, partly for the same reason. But Israel is not its primary concern, or target, and never has been, even under Ayatollah Khomeini, while to accuse Hamas and Hizbollah of being just proxies for Tehran is completely to misunderstand the nature of these groups and create a convenient excuse for not coming to terms with them. If Obama and the West are to engage with Iran, they will have to do so on its own terms. Entangling the issue with Israel's demands will simply prove counter-productive.

Nor is the association very helpful in dealing with the Palestinian issue. At the moment, America and Israel are on a collision course. Netanyahu's government has drawn back from the concept of a two-state solution and shows no sign of changing tack on settlement building or any other of the contentious issues. Obama's administration on the other hand is insisting that Israel should stop settlement expansion and pursue talks with the aim of setting up a separate Palestinian state.

There was nothing in Shimon Peres's speech this week to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee that suggested Netanyahu's government was ready to make any great concessions to the Palestinians. But then there was nothing in Vice-President Joe Biden's address to the same assembly to indicate that the US administration is prepared to pull back on its demand for an end to settlements and the two-state solution. Throwing Iran into the mix is not going to help. It merely confuses the issue to Netanyahu's benefit.

If nuclear proliferation in the Middle East really is Israel's primary concern, perhaps it can take a leaf out of Obama's book and offer to put its own nuclear arsenal into the discussion. It would certainly put the ball back in Iran's court if it did.

a.hamilton@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Larry Fink, the boss of fund manager BlackRock , is among those sounding the alarm  

Not all discounts are welcome: Beware the myopia of company bosses

Ben Chu
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black dead: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen