Iranian Jews shaping Israeli policy
Iran is home to around 25,000 Jews, the biggest Jewish community in the Middle East after Israel. While many of Israel's 75,000-strong
Persian Jewish community are anxious for the safety of family members who remained behind in the Islamic Republic, their fears are tinged
with more complex emotions. Merhan Ferhadian, a 47-year-old paediatrician who was born in Iran, told Jane’s: "Most of us think about our
families and country here first.”
According to David Menashri, director of Tel Aviv University’s Centre for Iranian Studies: "They decided to stay in Iran. It was their choice and
they are now part of Iranian society. That is how they view themselves and so far, at least, the regime has been fair to them.
"The Bahai minority has experienced much harder times. Iranian Jews have freedom to go to synagogue, pray and perform religious duties
and for their part, they are very faithful to the regime. They continue with their lives, making a distinction between Judaism and Zionism and
this is a formula that the Iranian regime has approved."
Iranian Jews in power
Three senior Israeli politicians of Iranian descent are now in positions to influence national policy making. Israeli President Moshe Katsav
and Deputy Prime Minister (and former defence minister) Shaul Mofaz were both born in Iran, while the Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff,
Dan Halutz, is the son of Persian immigrants. Their divergent positions on Iran reflect something of the Persian community's own recondite
While Katsav's current attempts to build bridges to Islam typify the diaspora trend of pragmatic engagement, the intractable stances of Mofaz
and Maj Gen Halutz are more generically Israeli. While Katsav seeks a negotiated niche in the Middle East, Maj Gen Halutz and Mofaz favour
a strategic alliance with the US.
Mofaz and Maj Gen Halutz clearly have a close working relationship. In 2005, both issued warnings that Iran would imminently acquire a
nuclear weapons capability. Both indicated a preference for a graduated negotiating strategy with Iran threatening sanctions, US military
action and, finally, an Israeli pre-emptive strike.
source: 2006 Jane's Information Group
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