Daniel Ayalon: Let us make common cause in defeating Iran's theocratic leaders

Recently the Israeli government has made significant steps to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and reach out to the Arab world. In his Bar-Ilan speech in June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated his acceptance of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel. My government has removed hundreds of roadblocks to improve access and movement for Palestinians and has assisted the facilitation of economic developments in the West Bank, through close co-operation with international parties to expedite projects and remove bottle-necks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a right-wing government has, in an unprecedented move, declared it would refrain from building new settlements in the West Bank. All of these moves taken together amply demonstrate Israel's willingness for peace.

This Israeli government is also committed to extend a hand to all of our Arab neighbours, its leaders and its citizens, to join together to face some of the major challenges facing us all in the coming years.

For the first time in many years, we find ourselves on the same side in seeking to quell and defeat the forces of extremism and destruction in our region. While many see the threat from Iran directed solely at Israel, we in the region know differently. Together, we understand the menace that emanates from the extremist regime in Tehran. A regime that seeks to export its extremist ideology across the region and beyond, while arming terrorist groups that seek to destabilize moderate Sunni regimes, and aiming for hegemonic control of the Middle East and far beyond.

The Iranian regime has many tentacles spread out across the region sowing destruction and despair among the people. The enemy of the people of Lebanon is not Israel, but Hizbollah. The enemy of the Palestinian people is not Israel, but Hamas. The enemy of the Egyptian people is not Israel, but militant Islamist opposition groups. All of these groups, and many others, receive their commands from Iran, who wish to control and suppress any aspirations the region has towards freedom and advancement.

This is an edited extract from an open letter by the Israeli deputy foreign minister, published in Saudi Arabian press on 21 December