With Obama to Iran
significant changes are taking place . The most significant recent change in our strategic sphere was the public message U.S. President Barack Obama sent to the people and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
While Israel is preoccupied with cobbling together a coalition and with the ongoing incarceration of Gilad Shalit, significant changes are taking place in our strategic sphere. The most significant of these was the public message U.S. President Barack Obama sent to the people and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a videotaped message on the occasion of Nauruz, the Persian New Year.
Obama offered to bring about a new era of American-Iranian relations, after three decades of disconnect and enmity. He offered a relationship based on diplomacy, rather than threats, on open dialogue and mutual respect - a relationship that would see the Islamic Republic reassume its place among the family of nations. He made no mention of Iran's nuclear program, calling only on Tehran to exchange "the capacity to destroy" for "the ability to build and create."
Just a few hours after Obama's message was broadcast, President Shimon Peres sent a similar message from Israel to the people of Iran, in which he harshly attacked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust, called on the people of Iran to topple their leaders and promised that Israel would survive.
The contrast between the two messages - one from Washington and one from Jerusalem - says much about the different approaches taken by Israel and the United States regarding Iran: While the Americans are actively seeking a way to start a dialogue, Israel is preaching confrontation and the toppling of the government in Tehran. This confrontation is likely to escalate once Benjamin Netanyahu is sworn in as prime minister; he has been advocating a more aggressive approach toward Iran for years in order to halt its nuclear program, which he sees as a threat to Israel's very existence.
It is clearly in Israel's interest to halt Iran's nuclear program, but it is no less in our interests to have close ties and a coordinated policy with the United States. The new government should give Obama's diplomatic initiative a chance; it must not come out against it or portray it as tacit acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran or as American abandonment of Israel's security.
The initial reaction in Iran to Obama's message was far from enthusiastic, but this is just the beginning of the dialogue. If Obama manages to reduce the rising tide of tension in the region and to introduce a new framework of dialogue and cooperation between nations, he will have made an important contribution to Israel's security and to its international standing. This is the approach that should guide Netanyahu when he holds his first meeting with President Obama at the White House.