Just weeks after ferociously labelling Israel “a malignant cancer” that must “be removed and eradicated,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dialed down his rhetoric.
In a series of recent tweets from his official website, he wrote that Israel’s protracted struggle with the Palestinians should be resolved peacefully rather than through war. “To define Palestine’s destiny, original Palestinians — those who lived in Palestine over 100 years ago, Muslims, Jews & Christians — in/outside occupied territories, will be polled. Whatever they decide will happen.”
In other words, the will of the majority will prevail in what he regards as an eminently fair referendum on Israel’s future.
Of course, he does not refer to Israel by its proper name. In his lexicon, Israel is “occupied territories.” This is hardly surprising, since his theocratic regime rejects Israel’s very existence and constantly threatens to annihilate it. Iran, of course, is the only member state of the United Nations whose political, religious and military leadership calls for Israel’s destruction. This has been the case since the 1979 Islamic revolution, which overthrew the Pahlavi monarchy.
Being too clever by half, Khamenei apparently thought he could burnish Iran’s battered image by toning down his harsh language toward Israel. So he dreamed up this harebrained scheme to destroy Israel by other means.
Knowing that Jews were a minority in Palestine a century ago, when it was on the cusp of becoming a British colonial possession thanks to General Edmund Allenby’s military campaign to oust the Ottoman Turks, Khamenei came up with the brilliant idea of using a simple referendum to defuse the complex Arab-Israeli conflict.
Since Muslim and Christian Arabs outnumbered Jews by a margin of about 10 to 1 in 1918, Khamenei was never in doubt, not even for even a nano second, that their present-day ancestors, the Palestinians, would outvote the Jews by a significant margin and thereby dismantle Israel by political means. Presumably, in his mind, Israeli Jews would gratefully accept the democratic verdict. Israel would then morph into either a binational state, where Muslims, Jews and Christians would live in supposed peace and happiness, or a Palestinian state, which eventually would turn into a Muslim-majority entity.
No one who cares about Israel will be fooled by his duplicitous plan. Nor does anyone believe, as he claimed in one of his tweets, that post-revolutionary Iran has never expressed a desire to “throw the Jews into the sea.” True, Iranian officials have never used this inflammatory phrase, once a favorite of Arab presidents and Palestinian leaders. Israel, though, has been subjected to a drumbeat of vile and threatening Iranian commentaries calling for precisely this outcome.
The unjust referendum that Khamenei proposes is nothing more than a figment of his wild imagination. It will never happen, period. The Arab-Israeli dispute will end when Israel and the Palestinians finally come to their senses and partition the land through a just two-state solution. Given the absence of leadership in Israel and the Palestinian Authority today, this sensible solution remains elusive and cannot be implemented. But it may be possible one day in the distant future.
In the meantime, Khamenei’s ridiculous scheme can be relegated to the dustbin of history.