Israel tacticians want Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win
Abraham Rabinovich – The Australian June 13, 2009
A SENIOR Israeli official said yesterday the consensus among his colleagues in Jerusalem was that a victory for the hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian elections would be in Israel's best interest.
"His extremism and his calls for Israel's destruction have pushed the international community to try to head off Iran's nuclear program," he said.
A victory by the relatively moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi would not stop the nuclear program, the official said, but it could lull the international community into thinking the threat was over.
Since Mr Ahmadinajad's election in 2005, he has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map, and denied the Holocaust happened. And he has argued that the Israelis were punishing the Palestinians because of what the Germans did to the Jews in World War II, and called on European leaders to provide the Jews with territory so they could move their state to that continent.
This extreme aggressiveness combined with Mr Ahmadinajad's flaunting of Iran's nuclear program has clearly marked him as Israel's leading enemy.
However, in the run-up to the Iranian polls, Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election has come to be seen as a strategic advantage. "There is no one who has served Israel's information program better than him," wrote columnist Ben Caspi in the daily Ma'ariv yesterday.
Israeli security officials note that decisions regarding major issues such as the nuclear program are made in Iran not by the president, regardless of who he is, but by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and a small group of senior clerics.
"From an operational point of view, it doesn't make a difference who wins," said one official. And a Foreign Ministry official who deals with the Iranian issue said: "From an informational point of view, he (Ahmadinejad) is the best thing that's happened to us."
The head of the Iranian desk at Israel Radio, Menashe Amir, said there was no basic difference between the four candidates for the Iranian presidency.
"The difference is in their style of speech," he said. "Ahmadinejad is blunt. The others try to cloak their real thoughts with ingratiating words. At least with Ahmadinejad his words reflect what he thinks. I'd be very happy if he's elected again."
Amir, who monitors the Iranian media closely and is in telephone communication with many Iranians, said Ayatollah Khamenei might have ordered the Republican Guard to fix the election results to ensure an Ahmadinejad victory.
"If these elections were truly free, Ahmadinejad wouldn't get more than 15per cent of the vote, mostly from rural areas," he said.
Another reason some Israelis are hoping for an Ahmadinejad victory, while holding their nose, is that the unprecedented level of passion that has been revealed by the Iranian election campaign during the past few weeks, particularly among young voters, may be a signal that the long-awaited social explosion against clerical restrictions may be close, even imminent. The emotional engagement of voters is seen as higher than that in the 1997 elections, which brought reformer Mohammad Khatami to power.
If Mr Ahmadinejad is chosen for another four years, particularly if the victory is seen to be the result of ballot manipulation, the country could erupt.
Israel officials have noted the warning by a senior figure in the Republican Guard that his forces would confront any attempt at a "velvet revolution" by Mousavi supporters similar to the street demonstrations that brought down the Czech government in 1989.
There is concern that a Mousavi victory would make it more likely that Washington would arrive at an agreement with Tehran permitting Iran to build nuclear energy reactors for peaceful purposes, as US President Barack Obama suggested in his Cairo speech this month. This would put Iran only a few months away from achieving a nuclear weapon, if it wanted to build one.
Israelis have no ill-feelings towards Iran and admire its culture. The two countries have no common border and have never engaged in a war, although the Islamic Republic actively supports Hezbollah and the Palestinian militants.
Israelis have never understood the virulence that Iranian leaders, particularly Mr Ahmadinejad, express towards Israel. Iran has the largest community of Jews in the Muslim world, and they are permitted to practise their religion freely, and are represented in the Iranian parliament. A large number of former Iranian Jews live in Israel, among them two ex-chiefs of staff, a former air force commander and a former president.
In contrast to the sophisticated assessments of Israeli strategists, however, the bulk of the public would feel reassured by a victory for the Iranian moderates.
Last updated 16/06/2009