Iran Supports the Two-State Solution? Not So Fast

A lot of noise is currently being made about The Forward’s Larry Cohler-Esses’s article about his experiences in Iran being the first American Jewish journalist to get a visa to do so since 1979. The Obama Administration’s cheerleaders at the New York Times also jumped in with an article of their own Reporting From Iran, Jewish Paper Sees No Plot to Destroy Israel.

This rests largely on on Choler-Esses’s description of his talks with Iranian officials:

During the course of my conversations with several senior ayatollahs and prominent political and government officials, it became clear that there is high-placed dissent to the official line against Israel. No one had anything warm to say about the Jewish state. But pressed as to whether it was Israel’s policies or its very existence to which they objected, several were adamant: It’s Israel’s policies. Others, notwithstanding their ideological objection to a Jewish state, made it clear they would accept a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians if the Palestinians were to negotiate one and approve it in a referendum.

However, despite this “positive” report, when discussing his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili of Qom, not only did his son say that he has no understanding of the two state solution, but said that “This is an idea much discussed in the West, but not much here.” Ardebili was very clear in his opposition to the existence of Israel:

“We believe that the State of Israel must be changed, corrected and improved. And if that is not possible, and if the nature of the state does not allow for improvement, then the state must be destroyed.”

And while he may dress it up as opposition to policies, the specific policy he and the Iranian regime oppose is the ancient anti-Semitic canard of Jewish-infanticide:

The only way to achieve peace, he explained, was for the Israelis “to stop their cruelty against Palestinians.” Israel, he said, “kills children and proudly defends killing them.

So how exactly is it that Cohler-Esses was able to report that so many Iranian officials and ayatollahs were willing to support a two-state solution? This seems like a very moderate, mainstream position that we would expect from any Western country. That is because this solution that is presented as moderate and reasonable means one thing to us and quite another to the Iranians. Remember where Cohler-Esses said that such an agreement would need the Palestinians to “approve it in a referendum?”

The “reformist” Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, who is often called “the spiritual father” of Iran’s Green Movement also spoke of a “referendum.”

“The idea that Israel should be destroyed is Ahmadinejad’s… What Israel should do is change its policies…. It’s impossible to destroy a country… There should be a referendum about this. All human beings should look for mutual humanitarian understandings.”

Mohammad Hassan Asafari of the IRGC and chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, also spoke of the need for a referendum, but he was more clear about what such a referendum would be:

“I absolutely disagree with a two-state solution.” Like many, he instead advocated the right of return of all Palestinian refugees to their former homes and elections by “all the people living there now — Jew, Muslim and members of other religions” — to decide the country’s future.”

This is the same type of referendum Ayatollah Khamenei champions (in Farsi and English) and what Iranian officials are referring to:

Here is a closer look at the relevant two sections:


The Iranians are not talking about the Israelis and Palestinians sitting down to vote on a two state solution. The only referendum that is supported by the regime would be one in which only Palestinians get to vote. Once the Palestinians, both in Israel, the territories and around the world vote, they can then decide what to do with the Jews they have been trying to kill for the past 100 years.

But even if by some miracle the Jews aren’t all killed, Khamenei makes it clear that this new government would have the authority to ethnically cleanse the area of any Jews it wishes. Not only that, but until Israel agrees to this system for its own dismantlement and expulsion, Ayatollah Khamenei says, “we believe the West Bank, too, should be armed just like Gaza and those who are interested in the fate of the Palestinians must work in this respect.”

It is certainly encouraging to hear many ordinary Iranians talk positively about Jews and, to an extent, Israel (with many even talking about ancient ties between Iran, Israel and Cyrus), but none of this was really ever in question. No one is making the case that all Iranians are evil or that all Iranians hate Jews or want to destroy Israel.

What we are pointing out is that those in Iran who hold power and make policy are clear about their views and plans for Israel. It’s about time we stopped lying to ourselves and started listening.