Iran-Israel: the way forward

By Ariane Tabatabai

Ariane Tabatabai, an Iranian and a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Belfer Center, describes her work with Aviv Melamud, an Israeli and PhD student at the Goethe University, to find ways for their respective governments to bridge the dangerous gap between the two countries.

This winter, the Islamic Republic of Iran will celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary, which marked a turning point in Iran-Israeli relations. The two countries have had a complex and mostly conflictual relationship since 1979. Just a few weeks prior to President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June 2013, war between the two countries seemed very possible.

Rouhani’s team has tried to distance itself from Ahmadinejad’s policies and rhetoric, attempting to normalize relations with the West, including the United States, but also neighboring countries. His initiative has not touched the Israel issue. Israel’s government has also remained adamant in its anti-Iran stance. As an Iranian scholar studying at Harvard and Kings College London, I worked with Israeli analyst Aviv Melamud, based at the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt, to propose some practical steps for our respective governments to start to bridge this gap. You can read our entire article at The National Interest website, where it was published on Dec. 23.

These steps, which can be taken independently by the two governments, include managing expectations and leaving behind the “all or nothing” approach. We recommend to the Israeli government that it recognize the efforts made by Rouhani’s team and to tone down its rhetoric, and for the Iranian government to officially endorse a two-state solution. Lastly, we call for both our countries to accede to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty and for Israel to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Aviv Melamud is an Israeli research associate at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), a Heinrich Böll Foundation Fellow, and a PhD student at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.

Ariane Tabatabai is an Iranian Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, a PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies, King's College London, and a non-resident Research Associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

The authors are members of the Middle East Next Generation of Arms Control Specialists Network, created by Dr. Chen Kane at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.