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Why Iran's Ahmadinejad is preferred in Israel

The incumbent president will be easier to isolate than reformist leader Mr. Mousavi, say some leading Israeli policymakers.

By Joshua MitnickCorrespondent / June 21, 2009



Tel Aviv

If they were to follow the ancient proverb, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," one would think Israelis would be rooting for Iranian opposition candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi and the hundreds of thousands of Iranian protesters who have challenged the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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But even though Mr. Ahmadinejad has threatened the Jewish state with destruction, many officials and analysts here actually prefer the incumbent president because – short of the downfall of Iran's theocratic system of government – he'll be easier to isolate. Reformist leader Mr. Mousavi, by contrast, isn't expected to alter Iran's drive for nuclear power, but he would win international sympathy.

"Just because Mousavi is called a moderate or a reformist doesn't mean he's a nice guy. After all he was approved by the Islamic leadership," says Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University. "If we have Ahmadinejad, we know where we stand. If we have Mousavi we have a serpent with a nice image."

On Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres waded into the debate, encouraging Iranian protestors and "courageous" women who he said were trying to "reclaim" their culture. He added that it's more important to have regime change in Iran than an end to the country's controversial nuclear program.

"You never know what will disappear in Iran first – their enriched uranium or their poor government," said Mr. Peres. "I hope their poor government will disappear first."

For Israel, Iran is threat No. 1

It's Iran, rather than any one of Israel's Arab neighbors, which is considered the most serious strategic threat to the Jewish state.

Ahmadinejad's verbal threats against Israel and his embrace of theories denying the World War II Holocaust of European Jews have prompted some Israeli officials to liken him to the leaders of Nazi Germany. Israel has argued that its nuclear program will destabilize not only the Middle East but the entire world.

Israel also accuses Iran of using Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza to fire short-range rockets across the border.

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