Israel and Iran: Why Do They Hate Each Other?

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has warned the international community of a nuclear-armed Iran, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei refuses to call Israel anything other than a Zionist regime. Yikes.


We’ve all heard “with great power comes great responsibility”. But, if those who hold the power are viewed as a threat rather than responsible, the issue becomes more complicated. The Western world is becoming exceedingly concerned about Iran’s nuclear program as Iran’s continual rhetoric and disregard to international requests continues. Yet no country is as fearful of the possible repercussions of a nuclear Iran as Israel.

Why Doesn’t Israel Like Iran?

Iran’s leaders talk about destroying Israel:

Current and former leaders of Iran have made statements that spew so much hate towards Israel and the West that you wouldn’t believe they were said unless you saw the evidence. Well, here is the evidence:

To sum it up, here are 3 quotes real quotes from Iran leaders that have the U.S. and Israel thinking the worst. (When you see the words “Zionist”, that means Israel)

  1. February 2006: “Nations in the region will be more furious every day. It won’t take long before the wrath of the people turns into a terrible explosion that will wipe the Zionist entity off the map…The basic problem in the Islamic world is the existence of the Zionist regime, and the Islamic world and the region must mobilize to remove this problem. It is a usurper that our enemies made and imposed on the Muslim world, a regime that prevented the progress of the region’s nations, a regime that all Muslims must join hands in isolating worldwide.” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former President of Iran
  2. November 2013: “The support of the miserable Zionist regime to which not even an animal’s name can be assigned will be a great dishonor to the Europeans.The Zionist regime is an imposed regime, and whatever comes out of force is not durable and this regime will not endure.” — Ayatollah Khameni
  3. November 2013: “We want to have friendly and kind relations with all nations, even with the nation of America, although the American Government is an arrogant and enemy government, a malevolent and spiteful government toward the nation of Iran and the Islamic Revolution system.” — Ayatollah Khameni
  4. February 2012: “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor that should be removed and will be removed, God willing.” — Ayatollah Khameni, 2012

Even though Iran claims they simply want nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes, when they couple those claims with the quotes from above and the fact that Iran has conducted nuclear production in secret over the years, it’s pretty obvious why Israel is a little freaked out and distrusting of Iran.

As quoted in a speech on January 31, 2010, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that

“whoever controls the Middle East controls the world’s energy and wealth…whoever dominates the Middle East can rule the entire world, too.”

So…. as a part of the Middle East, Israel would rather not wait around for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and therefore the ability to act on their threats.

What Would Be The Effect On Israel Of A Iran Gaining A Bomb?

The former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believed that a nuclear war with Israel would bring the arrival of the Twelfth Imam and has proclaimed this openly, therefore revealing that the safety of Israel could be in question if Iran gains nuclear weapons. Iran has referred to Israel as a one-bomb state, meaning “one nuclear bomb could effectively end the existence of the tiny, New Jersey-sized nation. Israel has a population of 7.8 million people…42 percent of the population live in the Tel Aviv metro area.”

But is all of this just political theater? What is the probability that Iran would actually attack Israel or its Western enemies? Some analysts believe the likelihood of Iran actually using a nuclear weapon to attack Israel or the U.S. is pretty low because both countries have a second-strike nuclear arsenal. This basically means that if Iran ever attacked Israel, both Israel and the U.S. have enough nuclear power to hit Iran back so hard it would basically wipe the country out.

We All Need Somebody To Lean On

Israel’s army is extremely sophisticated and strong. But Israel is a small country, and they would still need backing from the United States to carry out a successful military attack.

President Obama has continually reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to stand with Israel against the Iranian threat. Israel has reacted positively, and former Israeli President Shimon Peres agrees that Israel should “proceed together with America” rather than acting as a lone party.

So Israel feels like it needs American military backing, but at the same time Israel feels pressure because the sanctions the Western world has imposed to cripple Iran economically do not appear to be stopping Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. So there is the possibility that Israel could act alone if the United States decides military action is not the best response.

Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2013 that Israel has “different vulnerabilities and different capabilities than the United States…we have to make our own calculations, when we lose the capacity to defend ourselves by ourselves.” But Netanyahu understands that cooperation with Washington is the best scenario if Israel were to attack Iran. While the military threat is on the table, Netanyahu believes that the alternative to a bad diplomatic nuclear deal is not military attacks, but rather a “much better deal,” although he hasn’t quite said in detail what a “better deal” would look like.

The problem is, current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni isn’t very keen on giving up Iran’s nuclear program. He recently said “I insist on the acceptance of the rights of the Iranian nation including the nuclear rights. I believe that we should not yield the nuclear rights of our nation even one iota.” That leaves both the U.S. and Israel who are pushing for a diplomatic option in a little bit of a sticky situation.

Where does the U.S. come into this?

The Obama administration has been very vocal about not wanting Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. President Obama has been pretty clear about this, and stated on March 5th, 2012, “We do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world… And we do not want a regime that has been a state sponsor of terrorism being able to feel that it can act even more aggressively or with impunity as a consequence of its nuclear power.”

And obviously the U.S. and Israel are major allies. The difference is that the U.S. is willing to compromise in some areas with Iran that Israel isn’t willing to. The U.S. has been a supporter of curtailing the nuclear program, but believes that the key is to achieve it through diplomatic measures, rather than military force. That leads us to today- with an expiring deadline and pressure to reach a deal by July 1.

Back Up- Why Are We Allies With Israel?

It comes down to mutual interests and historical precedent. When Truman was the first President to recognize Israel in 1948, just 8 minutes after Israel declared herself a State, a precedent was set.

Here’s what you need to know. By U.S. standards, Israel is the only democracy with western values in the Middle East. For that and because of Israel’s geographical location in the region, the U.S. and Israel help each other out in the intelligence and military arena. So obviously it’s really important to keep Israel a happy ally. Israel and the U.S. are “best friends” by foreign policy standards, but it’s important to remember that each administration has dealt with Israel differently. Israel feels directly threatened by Iran, which means the U.S. feels indirectly threatened, so we have found ourselves at the table with the Iranians hoping to curb Iran’s nuclear program for the sake of both Israel and the U.S.

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