Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Stanley A. Weiss argues that Iran's present-day hostility to Israel is a historical aberration. And to solve the issue of Islamist terrorism, Israel would have to build bridges with Iran.
"As an American Jew visiting Iran, I apparently made an irresistible target. "Zionist Israel," an Iranian official instructed me, was the root of all problems in the Middle East; a Western "colonial imposition" on Muslim lands that must be reversed.
"It's Iran's own fault," I replied. "If Cyrus the Great hadn't freed the Jews from Persian slavery 2,500 years ago and told them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple, there wouldn't be an Israel." The official chuckled and changed the subject.
Today, it's hard to imagine two more bitter enemies than Iran and Israel. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls a nuclear- armed Iran an existential threat to Israel.
Yet animosity between Iran and Israel is an historical aberration. Before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, ancient cultural bonds and common strategic interests between Persians and Jews made Iran and Israel close allies. Even today, enduring strategic interests suggest that a revived Persian-Jewish partnership, while by no means imminent, is inevitable.
If he knew his history, Ahmadinejad would recall that Iranian diplomats in Europe saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust and that Iran served as an escape route for Iraqi Jews fleeing to Israel after the 1948 war for Israeli independence. In fact, Iran was one of the first Muslim countries to establish diplomatic and trade relations with the state of Israel (...)
Israel will need Iran, and Syria, to reign in Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Iran will need Israel, and its powerful lobby in Washington, to repeal U.S. economic sanctions.
Indeed, now that Washington has ended its 27- year-old policy against direct talks with Tehran, the door has opened, if only slightly, to a broader Iranian-American rapprochement. But for both Tehran and Washington, the road to reconciliation runs through Jerusalem.
When their governments are ready, the best bridge between Iran and Israel will be the enduring cultural links between their peoples.
Israel's community of 200,000 Iranian Jews - including a deputy prime minister, military chief and a Farsi-speaking president - are well-placed to forge new ties and trade with their ancestral homeland.
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A contrasting view from Edwin Black here about Iran's links to Nazism