From friends to foes: Why are Israel and Iran arch enemies?

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Iran once vowed to wipe Israel off the “face of the earth” and said that the Holocaust was a “myth.”

Israel has periodically attacked Iran in an attempt to halt its threatening nuclear capabilities.

It might come as a surprise to know that these two warring nations were once… friends.

So, what went wrong? 

“Until the 1979 revolution, Iran and Israel were friends, were allies, and they had close military and economic cooperation,” said Meir Litvak, Professor at Tel Aviv University. “But it was not publicized. And the Shah of Iran used to call it like a love affair in secret. Everyone knew about it, but it was not the official.” 

There was an Israeli embassy in Iran, but it was never declared an embassy. 

The change took place after the Iranian revolution when the new Islamic Republic took over. 

“It’s basically since 1979, still to this day, Iran declares that Israel should be eliminated as a state. That is it should not exist the state,” Professor Litvak said. 

The country’s new leaders adopted a strong anti-Israel stance, decrying the Jewish state as an imperialist power in the Middle East.

“The the new leaders in the Islamic Republic saw Israel as a garrison of the United States, an extension of the US hand in the heart of the Middle East. And Iran was a big supporter of the Palestinian cause,” said Ali Akbar Dareini, researcher and writer for the journal of the Center for Strategic Studies in Tehran. “Iran believed that Israel has been created on the basis of occupation and on the basis of Zionist ideology, which is a nationalist secular movement aimed at creating a Jewish state for Jews. And even in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, it did not define any borders.”

The ayatollahs consider Israel illegal occupiers of Jerusalem and responsible for the “genocide” of Palestinians.

Iran has since strong-armed groups that regularly fight Israel. 

Iran has supplied more than 130,000 rockets to Hezbollah threatening Israel, more rockets and funding of more than a $100 million annually to Hamas in Gaza and more than $16 billion to support Syria and its allies between 2012 and 2020.

Israel believes Iran’s potential to build nuclear weapons is a threat to its existence and has been reportedly responsible for sabotage against the country’s atomic program.

Israel is reportedly behind the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran since 2010 and several attacks and cyber attacks on nuclear sites inside Iran. 

The two countries have also been engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on commercial vessels, beginning 2019. 

According to Bloomberg, previous targets included Iranian tankers carrying oil destined for Syria; an Iranian ship off the coast of Yemen that served as a floating base for the Revolutionary Guards; and cargo ships belonging to or linked to Israelis. 

Despite ongoing tensions between the two nations, will they ever reconcile? 

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