Just a couple of observations, both about the role of the media in this, and some about the Arab perspective and the Palestinian perspective.
First of all, I want to go back to the clip that we watched at the beginning, and if you noticed other than the soundbytes of Trump and Pompeo, there was a video of the riots in Iran, and the video was taken by phone. That should raise some questions because, as much as I know, and a couple of journalist colleagues that are here, there is a journalistic corps in Iran. There are foreign correspondents of major networks that are based in Iran and this is allegedly their job to report back to us what is really going on.
I think part of the reasons why there is no momentum to refer to the questions that we are all here for: Is Iran heading to a collapse? There is still no momentum because there is no echo – to what’s going on, to initiatives, to demonstrations, to civil uprising. There is no echo in the West. There is no echo in the world. Everyone who has ever watched a civil uprising knows if to go back to Tahrir Square, or even some of the things that happen here in Tel Aviv. There needs to be some conversations between the people on the streets and the public, and these conversations, other than the exotic – I’m saying “exotic,” and I mean “sad” – videos of young women being arrested for dancing that managed to penetrate somewhat to the Western media. Other than that, there is a complete silence, and this has not only not given us enough the whole picture, but it gives us a distorted picture because we have journalists there, but they are not doing their jobs.
So that’s a general question that one should at least think about when talking about if Iran is heading anywhere. The second thing is two words, or two terms, that made a comeback here, even. We heard it. One is “a credible military option,” and the second is “regime change.” In the last years, the Iranian regime was immune of these two things, even though they were, as Kuper said, some mentioned it, especially when they sat next to Israelis. The Iranians are known to be very wise, and they knew this was fake. Nobody meant business, not in terms of regime change and not in terms of credible military options. I mean, American credible military options that allowed them to act from a place not of self-protection but rather of expansion, and then we saw what happened in the Middle East. What we see in the lesson in here is what I think is another, and you know the Jerusalem Center. I’m not part of this milieu so I can say this naturally: You heard Steinitz, very close to the government, or the Prime Minister of Israel, so this is not just a bunch of intellectual debating things. I think it’s news that “a credible military option” and “regime change” are now on the table.
On top of this, the Iranians are now dealing with real opposition to their regional expansion – the Saudis in Yemen, the Moroccans, as we saw in West Sahara, Israel in Syria, and they are acting out of, first of all, pushback and self-protection. So that’s a completely different state of mind, especially if you are a regime that has an internal weakness, an internal problem of legitimacy. That’s the second one. The third one has to be, as I’m representing now, not representing, but echoing the establishment, the military establishment, security establishment, both here and abroad, especially here, they hate regime change. They usually think this is a recipe for disaster. We don’t want to engage. It’s too dangerous. We tried in the past, etc., etc. I think that’s part of the weakness, and when we say, “regime change,” we don’t mean American tanks toppling Khamenei. You mean empowering opposition. We can debate if that’s Mujahedin-e Khalq or others, empowering, actively empowering opposition, and sending a message to the Iranian people: “You have backing in the West. Go for it.” People here are still reluctant about this, and I think there is room to ask whether that’s another paradigm that needs to be challenged. Are we too shy or hesitant to present to the Iranian people support at least?
The fourth thing I want to refer to is maybe a naive Israeli assumption that there is the Iranian regime, but deep inside the Iranian people loves us or is more open to us. I think that’s very naïve, frankly speaking. Half of the population in Iran is under 30. They were brought up by the values of the Iranian Revolution. As you know, none of this includes love for the Jews, or the Israelis, or the Zionist entity. So, I think that thinking that change in Iran will entail a radically more moderate approach toward Israel is a little bit far-fetched. So, we have to be very realistic. It’s nice that we are communicating directly. The prime minister does it, others with the Iranians. It’s good to have people-to-people initiatives, but let’s not get carried away.
The fifth thing, and I will end with this, is Hamas. I think we are missing a major development within Hamas that is they are going full-on Iranian, and that’s still debatable within Hamas. Some like it, some less. The election of Yahya Sinwar as the head of Hamas in Gaza, in my opinion, was a turning point for Hamas, when he goes out of his way to show, let’s call it long story short, I am a journalist. I liked his speaking headlines: the Hizbullah-zation of Hamas. He sees Hamas’s core raison d’être in the military wing, less as a social movement, political movement, with the aspiration to govern Palestine but a military wing mukarrama, resistance. He wants to be Hizbullah. You can see Hamas as a military wing, copying and pasting every single thing that that Hizbullah does. They are competing for funding, especially now that funding is starting from Qods Force, from RCT, and they know that they have to deliver. I think it’s not coincidental that we saw the “March of Return,” the biggest Palestinian campaign in recent years, just when things got very tight for the Iranians and in Syria. So, I think that Hamas has its own reason why it operates like this, but part of it has to be to help the Iranians distract the Israelis from what’s going on up North and to focus their attention in Gaza, and as you can see, despite very harsh public criticism, the government in Israel is not engaging Hamas in conflict in Gaza. Part of the reason why, that’s at least what I hear, is they understand that this eventually will serve the Iranian purpose. So, these are just few observations.