Writers and commentators usually discuss a topic related to a recent event, be it political, social, or economic, the so-called the topic of the hour. Writing about a hypothetical, future topic is rare. Today, however, I am writing about the possibility of an Iranian-Israeli normalization based on an idea that has become prevalent in the study of the history of political relations, which says, “In politics, expect the unexpected.”
The idea of establishing direct relations between Iran and Israel may seem far from reality to some, but if we look at a number of recent events in international politics, we find that this assumption is possible, and it would be negligent to ignore this possibility. Look at the Sino-American relations that were cold for years. When circumstances changed, everything turned upside down. There are other examples of complete about-face that cannot be mentioned in detail. The Iranian political motive for intervening in the region is its own security as stated by the country’s highest authorities. And in order to sell this to the general public in the countries of this new form of occupation, nothing serves their purpose better than a verbal adoption of the Palestinian cause, behind which it is possible to rally Arab public opinion and justify Iranian interference. However, as soon as the Iranian regime is reassured about its security, all pretexts for anti-Israeli sentiments will be dropped. Iran is only using some Arabs as an advanced ploy to defend its regime and not, as some of the duped believe, for “liberating Palestine.” It has neither the ability nor the desire to do so; Israel’s security is the line that can’t be crossed as far as the West is concerned, and the same goes for China and Russia.
What do Iran and Israel have to gain, and what do they stand to lose if relations were to be normalized between them? Let’s start with what they could lose. Iran would not lose anything at all, but rather, save on the funds that it sends to its Arab arms in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Gaza. That money would be spent, as the Iranian public desires, on local development projects, which is a gain for the Iranian public interest. Otherwise, Iran would not negotiate on its territory or interests, and, contrary to popular belief, the move would be received very positively in Iranian circles, regardless of their school of thought. The Iranian public opinion is not hostile to Israel, as demonstrated by the fact that the previous regime, the regime of Shah Mohammad Pahlavi, had a good relationship with Israel politically, economically, and culturally, and there was no indication of Iranian popular rejection of that relationship. Today, Israeli officials and others, who were in Iran, still speak Farsi and practice Persian culture to this day, and they constitute a reasonable bridge for any future relations. In fact, there are publications by Israeli academics promoting the importance of that relationship, and even its necessity in the future for the security of Israel.
On the other hand, Iran will gain great support on the world stage because of the weight of Israeli/Jewish power in the world. Any peace project between Iran and Israel will help Iran relieve a lot of pressure from other countries in the world. If reconciliation with Israel is achieved, nothing more will hinder thriving economic and cultural relations.
What does Israel lose in that case? Also, almost nothing as it will secure the end of distribution of anti-Israel propaganda or the sending of weapons to the forces affiliated with Iran in its vicinity. Israel would not longer be bothered by Iran’s armament because those weapons will not be directed at it. On the contrary, it will gain a large market it can trade in at a level unavailable in other surrounding markets. The losers, of course, would be the ones who call themselves “the axis of resistance,” which is nothing more but an imaginary title. Hezbollah is present in Lebanon and will continue to do so as long as there is a necessity for Iranian influence there. However, its real agendas will be exposed more than they are now. For now, they are only exposed to the few, while the public can still be sold on the idea of “war with Israel,” which is also just another imaginary idea. If the main leadership in Tehran normalizes relations with Israel, then its supporters can only justify normalization, and there will be no lack of justification. As for the Syrian regime, it is already open to normalization, provided it remains in power, otherwise, slogans would merely be replaced by other slogans. We heard the slogan “Peace of the Brave” before, so why don’t we hear it anymore? In any case, the Houthis are in trouble, so it is quite realistic that they will never rule Yemen, even if they were under the illusion that this was within their reach. Normalization will silence the slogan “Death to Israel” just as it canceled the slogan “Death to America” a few weeks ago.
When calculating the loss and gain, the biggest losers are the Arabs in their Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, and Yemeni homelands, I mean the broad public who has been displaced, killed, or starved, while recognizing that some of the leaders of the pro-Iran forces are also in the category of losers, with the loss of their homelands. Is this scenario possible? When you think pragmatically rather than emotionally, it is possible. It is just a matter of timing. The fiercest of rivals can become the closest of friends.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Lebanese news outlet Annahar al-Arabi.