Zionism is the legacy of Cyrus the Great and the national inheritance of the Iranians. The Islamic Republic’s anti-Zionism is not a historical norm, but a radical break from history by a radical regime. The Iranian revolution seeks to return to its historical origins, and Zionists must rejoice if it succeeds.
The former crown prince of Iran and the most prominent opposition figure, Reza Pahlavi, became the most prominent Iranian to have ever visited Israel this week. He made history by taking the first step to restore it. Pahlavi’s cautious approach to leadership, out of the fear of alienating Iranians from different camps, has been a point of criticism over the decades. His trip doesn’t suggest that he has overnight become more risk-taking, but that he understands that anti-Zionism is no longer a political force among his audience inside his country. This is an early sign that a free Iran will cease hostilities with Israel and end the region’s most destabilizing conflict, caused by one of the most destabilizing regimes in the world. Only a few years after Abraham Accords, we can now envision the potential for the future Cyrus Accords.
Pahlavi’s trip was as much about symbolic gestures as it was political business, evident by his decision to visit during Holocaust Remembrance Day and participate in the ceremonies. He posted a picture of himself wearing a kippah and his wife praying at the Western Wall. His post’s caption cited the Book of Ezra and Cyrus the Great’s edict to rebuild the Second Temple. On Farsi social media, Cyrus Accords immediately began to trend, with more than 100,000 tweets in 24 hours.
The Iranian opposition leader also met with Israeli government officials, likely to seek their assistance for the protest movement that has been roiling Iran for the last seven months. Minister of Intelligence Gila Gamliel hosted the crown prince, and the itinerary included meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog. Given Israel’s covert assets in Iran, Pahlavi’s following there, and the two parties’ mutual interest in regime change, it is a reasonable guess that they discussed avenues of cooperation to effect change. He had also mentioned that, given Iran’s water crisis and Israel’s expertise in desalination, he intended to meet with Israeli water experts, so Gamliel gave him a tour of the water desalination facility in Shurk.
As seen by their reactions to Pahlavi’s visit, for many Iranians, Israel has transformed from an enemy to an ally against the Islamic Republic. Masih Alinejad, another opposition leader, tweeted that “the nation of Iran has no enmity with Israel. It is the Islamic Republic that has conquered the borders of hostility against Jews, not just in Iran, but also in the region and the world.” Hichkas, the first professional Iranian rapper, humorously tweeted his wish that the trip would result in countless Qassem Soleimani-like assassinations. Former national soccer team captain Ali Karimi, the opposition leader most in tune with the Iranian street, posted a picture of the Pahlavis and Gamliel with Iranian-flag-colored hearts.
The regime’s response, on the other hand, has been official silence. The spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs dismissed a question on the topic for it concerned “an irrelevant individual to an irrelevant destination country.” Unofficial and semi-official media tried to downplay it by mentioning Israel’s domestic political turmoil and the Pahlavi dynasty’s historically warm views of Israel. The combination of the regime’s dismissiveness and the opposition’s embrace is a hint that both sides are aware that Israel has ceased being a bogeyman in Iran.
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Shay Khatiri is a Fellow at Yorktown Institute.