July 27, 2011
Israel-Iran Foreign Relations
Prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979 Iran and Israel enjoyed close relations. The two states maintained close ties for several decades and each achieved greater security and reaped economic and diplomatic benefits from the other’s support.  After the Shah fled Iran in 1979 and the Islamic Republic was born Ayatollah Khomeini quickly made clear his hostility toward Iran’s former ally by pronouncing it a religious duty to eliminate Israel, and their friendly relations quickly turned to enmity. Currently, Iran and Israel do not have diplomatic ties. In spite of their hostilities, in 1982 the Israeli government acknowledged it had ignored an embargo imposed against Iran after the 1979 hostage crisis and provided Iran with arms during the newly formed Islamic state’s war with Iraq. Though Israel and Iran publicly denounced one other, Israel believed that the defeat of its greater rival, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, would be in their national interest. This deal was part of what would become known as the Iran-Contra affair. 
Relations between Israel and Iran further deteriorated after Iran deployed 1,000 Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) troops to the Beqaa valley in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The IRGC provided military training to Shi’ite Lebanese militias and was the driving force behind the formation of Hezbollah. In 1992 members of Hezbollah bombed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and in 1994 exploded a car bomb at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 and wounding 300. Former Iranian president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, current Defense Minsiter Ahmad Vahidi, and former Commander of the IRGC Mohsen Rezaie have all been implicated in the AMIA bombing and are still wanted by Argentina’s authorities. The Islamic Republic’s economic, diplomatic, and military support for Lebanese Hezbollah continues to be a serious point of contention between Iran and Israel. Speaking to Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in 2010, Ahmadinejad warned that if Israel were to attack Hezbollah, “then [Israel’s] case should be closed once and for all and the region delivered from their evil ways forever.” That same year Ahmadinejad was greeted by throngs of Hezbollah supporters during a state visit to Lebanon. Iran also provides extensive military support, in the form of weapons and training, and financial support to Palestinian militants, most notably Hamas. According to one report, Iran provides Hamas with $20 to $30 million per year in financial support.
Iran’s nuclear program has also been a major source of concern for Israel. Israel believes that the Islamic Republic intends to use its program to produce nuclear weapons and has repeatedly asserted that a nuclear-armed Iran could threaten its existence. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed Israel’s anxiety when he declared in 2005 that Israel was “doomed to be wiped off the map.” Israeli officials have suggested in recent years that they will undertake unilateral military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if necessary. In 2010, Israel urged the U.S. and its allies to develop a credible military threat against Iran.
Iran has responded to Israel’s defensive posture by further developing its long-range missile program in order to place Israeli cities within range of its systems. The head of IRGC’s Aerospace Force confirmed Iran’s strategy when he announced, “the range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime.” Israel’s chief military intelligence officer reported in 2011 that Iran possessed the technology to develop a nuclear weapon within two years. Accordingly, Israeli concerns continue to grow.
June 30, 2011: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman cautioned that Iran was further advancing its missile and nuclear programs while the international community remained focused on unrest across the Middle East.
May 24, 2011: In a speech before U.S. Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran “the greatest danger facing humanity.” He asserted that “a nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East…give terrorists a nuclear umbrella [and] make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world.” Prime Minister Netanyahu also reiterated his nation’s right to defend itself and urged the U.S. government to maintain its commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
January 25, 2011: Israel’s chief of military intelligence Major-General Aviv Kochavi claimed that Iran has the technology to produce nuclear bombs within two years. He added that “sanctions have had an impact on the Iranian economy, but they have had no impact on Iran's nuclear program…. The question is not when Iran will have a bomb but rather how much time until the Supreme Leader decides to escalate.”
November 8, 2010: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the West to develop a credible military threat against Iran, stating that “the only time that Iran suspended its nuclear program was for a brief period during 2003 when the regime believed that it faced a credible threat of military action against it…. If the international community led by the United States hopes to stop Iran's nuclear program without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action."
October 22, 2009: Israeli officials reported that they met with Iranian officials in Cairo during the meeting of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. The Israelis claimed they attended panel sessions of the conference with the Iranian delegations, in the first official exchange between the two countries since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran denied the meeting. The talks, brokered by Australia, took place mere days after Iran announced that it had built a uranium enrichment facility.
October 16, 2009: Israeli President Shimon Peres stated that the chances of Israel initiating an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities are minimal and that the United States should take the lead in dealing with Iran. Israeli officials also expressed the hope that Iran’s nuclear program could be stopped by non-military means such as international sanctions, citing Israel’s belief that a military attack would only delay the inevitable development of an Iranian nuclear program.
July 27, 2009: Israel sent two Saar-class missile ships and one Dolphin-class submarine capable of carrying nuclear warheads through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea in what an Israeli defense official explained was preparation for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Soon after these exercises, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Iran that Israel was considering a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
July 16, 2009: National Security Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Uzi Arad stated in an interview that Israel is prepared to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities unilaterally, without the military support of its American or European allies. He explained that Iran’s nuclear program threatens Israel more than its larger and more distant allies.
March 4, 2008: Israel’s foreign ministry affirmed its support for UN sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, stating that a recent resolution regarding further UN sanctions against Iran was an “unequivocal message that the international community cannot accept Iran’s defiant nuclear program.”
December 11, 2005: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon backed Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz’s comments that Iran would support a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities after diplomatic negotiations between England, France, Germany, and Iran over its nuclear program broke down. Sharon stated, “We have the ability to deal with this and we’re making all the necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation.”
November 23, 2003: Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz stated that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic under any circumstances and would consider a unilateral, preemptive strike.
Israel has had very limited bilateral economic relations with Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Relations have been limited further since 2005, when the UN began applying sanctions on Iran.
July 9, 2011: Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), warned that Iran would strike U.S. aircraft carriers if it were to come under attack from Israel or the United States.
June 29, 2011: The Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, stated that “U.S. targets in the region and Israel are within the range of Iran’s missiles.” He added, “the range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime.”
April 28, 2011: An Israeli official expressed concern over Iran’s influence extending to the Maghreb, stating that Israel was “troubled by some of the recent actions coming out of Egypt,” including a “rapprochement between Iran and Egypt.”
February 20, 2011: After Iran sent two naval vessels through the Suez Canal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of “trying to take advantage of the situation [the fall of Mubarak in Egypt] by transferring two warships via the Suez Canal.”
December 28, 2010: Iran hanged one of its citizens it had accused of spying for Israel. According to Iran’s state media, the alleged spy confessed to spying for Israel since 2004 and had met with Israeli agents during “foreign trade” visits to Turkey.
June 8, 2010: Israel dispatched a high-level delegation to Beijing to present evidence of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to urge China to impose its own unilateral sanctions against Iran. An Israeli official described the encounter: “The Chinese didn’t seem too surprised by the evidence we showed them, but they really sat up in their chairs when we described what a pre-emptive attack would do to the region and on oil supplies they have come to depend on.”
April 29, 2010: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Syrian and Iranian support for Hamas and Hezbollah as “real” threats to Israeli security.
February 18, 2010: Iran reaffirmed its commitment to Lebanon’s Hezbollah against Israel. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that if Israel launches a new war against Hezbollah, the militant group should retaliate strongly enough to ''close their case once and for all.” During a phone call with Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad elaborated that “the preparations should be of the level that, if they [the Israelis] want to repeat the mistakes of the past, then their case should be closed once and for all and the region delivered from their evil ways forever.”
February 7, 2010: Iranian officials arrested seven people accused of inciting unrest after last year's disputed election, suggesting that the individuals had ties to Israel: "Seven people organizationally linked to the counter-revolutionaries, the Zionist media and elements of the sedition have been arrested.” The Israeli government did not respond to this allegation.
February 7, 2010: An encounter between Iranian and Israeli diplomats reportedly took place at a tourism fair in Madrid, according to an Israeli news source. Official news agencies in Iran denied claims that Hamid Baghaei, Iranian Tourism Minister and Vice President, stood next to and shook hands with his Israeli counterpart, Stas Misezhnikov. According to the report, Misezhnikov shook Baghaei's hand and said to him, "we are both from the same region, and tourism can be a bridge to peace. The people in Israel see the people in Iran as a friend, but it is important that the Iranian president stop the wild incitement against Israel and bring Iran back into the family of nations."
February 4, 2010: Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel might use force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Minister Yaalon told a security conference in Herzliya, "Iran's plan will probably be stopped by a regime change or, if there is no other choice, by recourse to force to deprive Iran of its nuclear arms production capabilities.”
February 2, 2010: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in an attempt to curtail Moscow’s arms deals with Tehran. Russia delayed the delivery of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran one day after the meeting to urge a stronger stance against Iran’s nuclear program. Putin assured Netanyahu that Russia would not sell arms to Syria or Iran that would alter the regional strategic balance. Alexander Fomin, deputy head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, reported the delay was due to technical difficulties.
January 26, 2010: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his confidence that Islamic nations will eventually witness the destruction of Israel: "Surely, the day will come when the nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime…when the destruction happens will depend on how the Islamic nations approach the issue." The comment was made during a meeting with Mauritanian President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz and published via his website in late January 2010. He went on to say that Israel’s attempts to “erase Palestine from the world of Islamic nations” will not succeed.
January 19, 2010: Jordanian intelligence officials connected the January 2010 assassination of Iranian physics professor Massoud Ali Mohammad in Tehran with a failed bombing of an Israeli delegation in Amman, Jordan. Jordan’s General Intelligence Department announced that it believed that al Qaeda supporters financed by Iran were responsible for the unsuccessful bomb attack on the Israeli envoy. No one was injured, and a Jordanian taxi driver was arrested in connection with the incident, but Jordanian intelligence concluded that the explosion was retaliation for the Tehran bomb attack that Iran had blamed on the U.S. and Israel. 
January 14, 2010: Iran blamed Israeli and U.S. intelligence forces for the January 2010 bombing in Tehran that killed Iranian physics professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated on Iranian television that "the manner of bomb planting shows a Zionist style and they want to make sure that Iran [will] not advance." Washington denied the allegations as absurd, while Iranian officials blamed the attack on the exiled opposition party, the People’s Mujahedeen [MKO or PMOI], and alleged that the group acted on behalf of Israel and the U.S. On January 18, 2010, Iran announced through its official news agency that it would take revenge on Israel and the United States for the professor’s death. Washington continued to deny involvement, while Israel made no comment. 
November 4, 2009: The Israeli navy seized a vessel carrying several hundred tons of weapons 100 miles off the Israeli coast. According to Israeli defense officials, the weapons originated in Iran and were destined for Hezbollah and Hamas militants. The ship originated in Iran and docked in Yemen and Sudan before passing through the Suez Canal, reportedly on its way to a final destination in Lebanon. The ship’s crew said that they picked up the cargo in Damietta, Egypt while the Israeli military contends that the cargo certificates indicated the weapons were shipped from an Iranian port.
September 28, 2009: Amid a deepening dispute over its nuclear program, Iran test-fired a missile that put Israel within striking range. Abdullah Araqi, a senior official in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said that, “Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran.” The missiles tested – liquid-fueled Shahab-3 and the solid-fueled Sejil-2 – have ranges of approximately 850 to 1,250 miles, putting all of Israel within range. 
September 24, 2009: In his address to the United Nations, President Ahmadinejad decried Israel as having “racist ambitions.”
July 19, 2009: Israel reaffirmed its accusation that Iran continues to fund and arm Hamas and Hezbollah militants.
July 19, 2009: Iranian Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohsen Ejeie accused Israel of planning to assassinate Ahmadinejad after his reelection in June 2009. According to Ejeie, “The Zionist regime had met with the hypocrite group (the term Iran uses for the PMOI) on the sidelines of (a meeting in) Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt and in Paris to assassinate Mr. Ahmadinejad.”
July 16, 2009: The Israeli navy deployed two Saar-class missile boats and a Dolphin-class nuclear-capable submarine to the Red Sea for military exercises. An Israeli defense official said the exercise was intended as “a message to Iran.”
February 4, 2009: In a visit with the political bureau chief of Palestinian Hamas, Khalid Mashaal, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly criticized Israel’s use of force against the Palestinian territories. Mashaal praised Iran’s support of Hamas, urging its ally “to continue with the steps to support the people of Gaza, because the battle is not over.”
December, 2007: Iran repeated its accusation that Israel is instigating aggression against the Palestinian territories, and voted against Israel in the Resolutions on the Arab-Israeli Conflict during the 62nd Session of the General Assembly.
October 26, 2005: Soon after becoming the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad escalated public rhetoric against Israel stating the country is "doomed to be wiped off the map" and claiming that the Holocaust was a "myth."