The concern and fear about everything to do with Iran’s policies are understandable. Does the new president really intend to freeze uranium enrichment? Does his foreign minister’s new mode of dialogue reflect the positions of the supreme leader? Will anxiety over the Iranian nuclear program finally dissipate?
The bitter experience of negotiations with Iran justifies these concerns and the real test is not the speeches President Hassan Rohani gave Tuesday night or the public declarations of his ministers. Israel is not the only one that will be scrutinizing the actions of the new administration in Iran. The Western countries have no false illusions or naiveté. U.S. President Barack Obama, who said Iran will be tested by its actions, not its words, has repeatedly made clear that he does not intend to backtrack on his declaration that he will not let Iran attain nuclear weapons.
At the same time, it would be a serious mistake for Israel and the international community to ignore the recent declarations from Tehran and the change underway in the Iranian government. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s statements that diplomacy is the right way to solve the crisis; Rohani’s determination to advance dialogue with the P5 + 1 group of countries to reach agreement over uranium enrichment; the interview in which Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif condemned Holocaust denial; the New Year’s greeting Rohani sent to the Jewish people and, mainly, the historic meeting expected tomorrow between the Iranian foreign minister and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry - all show that Iran’s wall of opposition to direct dialogue is increasingly cracking.
It is clear to both sides that the space for diplomatic maneuvering is not unlimited and that, without practical and serious progress, the impression Iran is trying to make will come down with a loud crash. But, at the same time, the two parties are aware of the dangers inherent in the alternative. An attack on Iran, with international consensus or by a single country – whether Israel or the United States – could send the region into all-out war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who continues to toe the belligerent line, is apparently not prepared to examine the possibility of renewed diplomatic efforts. He rashly compared Iran to North Korea and warns the world against falling into a trap set by Iran. But even the military alternative that he supports does not guarantee a full solution to the Iranian threat. It is correct, therefore, to listen very closely to the statements coming out of Tehran and to carefully follow the actions of the Iranian regime. But a proper chance should be given to diplomacy.