The foreign ministers of Israel and Iran, Yair Lapid and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, clashed online a few days ago in what can only be described as a futile Twitter exchange.
Israel and Iran are the bitterest of enemies due to Iran’s constant calls for Israel’s destruction and its financial and military support of proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which reject Israel’s very existence and have waged war on the Jewish state.
Israel’s and Iran’s mutual animosity is magnified by Israeli operations to damage the Iranian nuclear program and by Israel’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
In light of this deep-seated acrimony, Israel has nothing to gain whatsoever by engaging Iran in rhetorical skirmishes. They are a waste of time and a counter-productive exercise because they only compound Israel’s increasingly harsh conflict with its geographically distant enemy.
The Lapid-Abdollahian exchange began when Lapid was asked by an interviewer on television whether Israel has the ability to strike Iran’s nuclear sites.
“Israel has capabilities, some of which the world, and even some experts in the field, cannot even imagine,” he replied. “And Israel will protect itself against the Iranian threat.”
Lapid added that Israel could launch an attack without informing the United States, which withdrew from the nuclear accord in 2018 during Donald Trump’s presidency, but which his successor, Joe Biden, is seeking to revive in current talks in Vienna.
On January 3, Abdollahian responded, tweeting that “the disturbing remarks of the foreign minister of the fake Israeli regime against the great nation of Iran” were a pipe dream. “We will forcefully and rationally defend the rights, interests and progress of the Iranian people,” he went on to say.
And in yet another Iranian volly questioning Israel’s basic right to statehood, he tweeted, “Zionism has no place in the future of the world.”
With this vile tweet, Iran made it abundantly clear once more that it accepts neither Israel’s existence nor its legitimacy.
Obviously upset by Abdollahian’s obscene remark, Lapid posted his response, not only in Hebrew, but in Farsi and English as well. “The extremist Iranian regime threatens Israel with annihilation, but will continue to lose this battle,” he tweeted. “Their failed leadership is destroying Iran from within. In the words of the Iranian poet Saadi, ‘He whose existence is evil, will forever remain so.’ Iranians should know that it is their regime that is making their lives miserable. The State of Israel will not allow its citizens to be harmed.”
One can empathize with Lapid’s visceral need to verbally repay Abdollahian in kind. But from a sober diplomatic perspective, Lapid’s fusillades were really pointless. It would have been to Lapid’s tactical advantage to ignore Abdollahian’s rants altogether and not to have stooped to his crude level.
Iran’s hostile attitude to Israel since the 1979 Islamic revolution is no secret. Since then, Iran and Israel have been engaged in a drumbeat war of words and in a shadow war, particularly in Syria, where Iran is trying to build a military infrastructure on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Rare is the month when Iran does not exhibit its ideological animosity toward Israel. Two recent examples illustrate its mindset.
On December 15, the state-owned Tehran Times published a front-page map of Israel riddled with markers denoting cities and towns within range of Iranian missile strikes. The map was accompanied by an opinion article warning Israel that its threats to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities will be met by force.
On December 24, at the end of five days of military exercises, Iran fired a barrage of 16 missiles. The chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, General Mohammed Bagheri, said they were capable of reaching “the Zionist regime.”
Iran’s strategic stance toward Israel, therefore, is well established and universally known. That being the case, Israel should not respond to well-worn Iranian verbal provocations. Israeli counter- blasts are futile and serve no pragmatic purpose.
Let Iran’s political and military leaders howl like jackels at night. Their shrill voices will be heard, but Israel should remain judiciously silent in the face of these howls.