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GI Responds to Iran's President

28.10.05


Response from Israelis, Palestinians and calls for peace.
"TEHRAN, Oct. 26- Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told a group of students at an anti-Israel event on Wednesday that Israel 'must be wiped off the map.'  He was speaking to about 4,000 students at a program called 'The World Without Zionism,' in preparation for an annual anti-Israel demonstration held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. 
 
"His tone was reminiscent of that of the early days of Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979."
 
It might seem paradoxical to some that the first, and so far only Arab or Muslim leadership to step out and vocally confront and condemn these comments have been the Palestinians. In fact, to anyone familiar with the current Palestinian leaderships approach to resolving their conflict with Israel, this would come as no surprise at all. Unlike the Iranian regime, the PA is committed to a non-violence and negotiations to bring about an agreed 2-state solution. In this vein the PA also condemned this week's Hadera suicide bombing– in contrast to President Ahmedinajad’s praise of violence and calls to wipe Israel off the map.
 
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The following excerpt is from a report by Aluf Benn in Ha'aretz:

PA's Erekat: Iran's anti-Israel statement is 'unacceptable'
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to "wiped off the map."

"This is unacceptable to us," Erekat said. "We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran. This is unacceptable."

Other than Erekat, Arab leaders maintained silence Thursday over Ahmadinejad's statements, but analysts said Tehran's Arab rivals may quietly be pleased to see the radical regime further isolated by its extremism.

Newspapers across the Middle East reported Wednesday's speech without comment, many of them on their front pages.

Ahmadinejad said a new wave of Palestinian attacks would destroy Israel, and he denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it, the media reports said. He also repeated the words of the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called for the destruction of Israel.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, and supports Palestinian militant groups such as Islamic Jihad, the group behind a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis Wednesday.
 
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Erakat was joined in his condemnation today by Elias Zananiri – the Executive Director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition-Geneva Initiative. Speaking at a Geneva Intiative weekend training workshop of Israeli young leaders, Zananiri said that the contrast could not be more stark.  “The Palestinians are extending the hand of peace, unequivocally recognizing Israel’s right to exist and its unique character, and are calling for a compromise, negotiated solution which will also accommodate Israeli security concerns.  The Iranian President is not only messaging in the opposite direction, but actively inciting and promoting an escalation of violence."
 
In remarks later to geneva-accord.org, Zananiri expressed his disbelief and dismay that in this context Israel is refusing to enter into talks with President Abbas, cancelling meetings and “stone-walling the repeated PA calls for permanent status negotiations”.

“There is the Iranian way or the Palestinian way” Zananiri continued, “but the latter requires building a solid and mutually strengthening partnership and just as important – avoiding provocations and military escalation – unfortunately Sharon continues to undermine and weaken Abbas – which just enhances the ability of the Iranian position to echo with ordinary people”.

GI-Israel’s Daniel Levy suggested that who desires a secure future for Israel and a peaceful Middle  East environment might want to adopt the slogan, “It's Iran, not Palestine, stupid.” 

“In addition to the condemnations of Ahmadinajad and moves to diplomatic isolation, the best policy in the face of the Iranian threat should include stepping up efforts to get an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal back on the table”.  Levy added “An Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement is doable, has the support of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, and would allow Israel and the international community to focus on how real the Iranian threat is - minus an Iranian ability to exploit the Palestinian issue to rally many Arabs and Muslims to its cause. Pretext removal is sometimes the best of policies”.

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Commenting in the influential blog, The Washington Note, Steve Clemons had the following to say: “I am one who believes that we need to do all we can to move expeditiously towards a two-state settlement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership.

But I have to say that statements like this from the President of Iran really muck up efforts of both sides to be responsible in trying to generate stability and fairness in an agreement, maintain security, and to work towards a very different environment in the Middle East.

This kind of statement deserves attention and condemnation -- but at the same time -- we need to find out quickly whether Mahmud Ahmadinejad is someone we can eventually work with though we may dislike him -- or whether this guy is completely irreconcilable.

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Today’s Washington Post suggested that “the crudeness of Mr. Ahmadinejad, and his already evident failure to deliver on his populist promises to raise Iranian living standards, ought to open the way to a different approach. Unlike their president, most young Iranians would like to live in a prosperous and democratic society that enjoys good relations with the West. The West should stand up for that Iran; it can do so by rejecting and isolating the hateful ideologue who would drag the country in the opposite direction”.

Geneva-accord.org says that delivering on the promise of an Israeli-Palestinian peace would spook the Iranian hard-liners more than any combination of UNSC Resolutions, declarations and hollow threats.